Soccer fans breathed a sigh of relief this month when Miami-Dade County approved the sale of three acres needed for the construction of a new Major League Soccer stadium in Overtown, a few blocks from downtown Miami and the Miami River. The sale paves the way for a David Beckham-led club to take the field as soon as 2020.
But Beckham’s presence on the sideline won’t be the only notable thing about the stadium. The project will make history as the first professional sports stadium in the City of Miami to be designed and developed without any public dollars. In fact, the privately financed venue has already been called the best stadium deal in history.
It’s no wonder why Beckham and his partners are going it alone. Five years ago, the Miami Marlins inked a stadium deal that will cost taxpayers more than $2 billion over 40 years. That financing package sparked intense skepticism when it comes to public funding for even the most worthwhile of projects in Miami.
The highest-profile example has been the overhaul of Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. When the team’s initial plan to tap into public funds was met with resistance, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross came through in a big way by spending upwards of $400 million to solidify the stadium’s world-class status. The result? The venue has landed signature events including Super Bowl LIV in 2020 and the famed “El Classico” match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, taking place this summer.
The private financing trend isn’t limited to stadium deals. A few blocks away from the proposed MLS stadium in Overtown sits Lotus Village. Miami’s only homeless shelter serving women and children with wrap-around services is undergoing a game-changing transformation.
What used to be a cluster of outdated apartment buildings that housed 250 people is now giving way to a state of the art campus with capacity to serve upwards of 500 guests. The facility will include a children’s wellness center, a community health clinic, rooms for alternative therapies like yoga and meditation, and more.
It’s not just Lotus Village’s services that are making the shelter a national model; construction has been entirely funded by the private sector — allowing any future dollars received to be allocated to the delivery of services that will help the people who need it most.
One mile north, in the Miami Design District, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (ICA) recently completed construction of its new home, set to open on December 1st.
Complete with three floors of galleries, a sculpture garden and education and community rooms, the new ICA Miami has also been built without taxpayer dollars, thanks to the generous support of Irma and Norman Braman and Miami Design District Associates, which donated the land needed to build the new museum. With their help, additional funds raised through the Museum’s sustainability campaign will support ongoing operations and programming.
Across the bay, the city-owned Rickenbacker Marina on Virginia Key is relying on private funding to keep-up with mounting demand among boaters. While the number of registered boats in Florida has climbed 50 percent over the past 30 years, the number of boat slips has stayed the same.
The marina’s redevelopment lies in the hands of an RFP process that has drawn three bidders. Current marina manager Aabad Melwani and a group of local entrepreneurs have formed a team named Marina PARC (Public Access-Recreation-Community). Their plan includes a new baywalk, expanded public space, restaurants overlooking the skyline, and a ‘living shoreline’. Best of all, the project will be entirely paid for by private sources.
The wounds left behind by the Marlins stadium deal run deep, but a silver lining has emerged in the form of more private sector support for meaningful projects.