A brief history of Miami’s recent paparazzi frenzies includes local appearances by Peyton Manning (flirting with the Dolphins in 2012), Steve Wynn (eying a possible Miami Beach casino in 2011), and LeBron James (surveying American Airlines Arena in 2010).
Like I said, brief.
But nothing compares to the media storm set off when news leaked that David Beckham is touring possible venues for a new MLS soccer team in Miami. Now comes this little nugget of intel: Reuters is reporting that Beckham favors the development of a brand new, privately-funded soccer stadium in the urban core.
Rather than placing his stadium in some far off suburb where land is cheap and traffic is a non-factor, it sounds like Becks is hell-bent on being right in the thick of things. Salud!
Architecture students from the University Miami are already on the case, developing initial stadium designs as part of a course this semester. You can get a sneak-peek at what they’re working on here.
All of this begs the question, ‘what lucky plot of Miami land is in Becks’ bull’s-eye?’ (It also begs the question, ‘can MLS succeed here?’, but we’ll save that for another post. No need to rain on this parade).
Always up for some good, old fashioned (unsubstantiated) speculation, the crack team in our Soundbytes news room dusted off the map and got to work.
Admittedly, our criteria was loose. Anything within the urban core is fair game, so long as it wasn’t developed within the past 10 years (because hey, anything older than that is expendable here in the Magic City, right?) and isn’t slated for development within the next 10.
Here are our top five site-specific nominees, with a nifty map for our visually-inclined friends:
Watson Island – Like PNC Park in Pittsburgh or AT&T Park in San Francisco, a soccer field on the water overlooking the downtown Miami skyline has an opportunity to be one of the country’s great sports venues. We all know Watson Island has been the site of broken dream after broken dream, but there’s something about this that just makes sense. It could even satisfy the folks who campaigned for a bay front Marlins stadium, to no avail. Plus, there’s ample room for parking, and water taxis can operate from downtown and Miami Beach. The stadium could even be part of a large mixed-use project, with retail, hotels and the like.
Miami World Center/Overtown – The old Miami Arena on this site experienced its share of problems, and no doubt traffic and parking were problematic. But that was 30 years ago and there’s big plans a’ coming. Namely, the Miami World Center megaproject and another mixed-use project nearby that will include multiple transit links. When it comes to in-fill sites that won’t take up valuable water front space, this may be our best bet. And development planned for surrounding streets – shops, hotels, condos, offices, a convention center and more – will bring much needed infrastructure and street life to the neighborhood.
Bayfront Park: Multiple visions for a new sports and entertainment venue in downtown Miami’s front yard have been floated over the years, but this one is actually viable. Here’s why: soccer stadiums are typically far smaller and more compact than most major sporting venues. Making this work probably means demolishing the underutilized Bayfront Park Ampitheater to make room for our futbol pitch, but let’s be real, who’s going to miss it? Plus, the addition of 20,000 seats in a brand new stadium would make for a pretty attractive outdoor concert venue that could complement the nearby American Airlines Arena.
Parcel B: Ah, yes… the notorious third rail of Miami’s urban core. In case you aren’t familiar with Parcel B, it’s that often-talked-about-but-seldom-used spit of land wedged between American Airlines Arena and Government Cut. As far as sites with untapped potential in this town, Parcel B ranks right up there with Watson Island. So, what’s the problem? For one thing, the traffic mayhem that could come from MLS games and HEAT play-off games happening concurrently may be enough to take a pass (both occur during the summer months). Still, chatter that a Cuban-American History Museum may be destined for this site means Parcel B (B is for Beckham?) is back on the table and if that’s the case, its hard to believe Becks won’t have a look-sy (or is it look-see? look-sie?).
Florida East Coast Railway slip: Okay, okay, we admit this one is iffy. Marginal at best. And while we risk jeopardizing the environmentalist segment of our readership, we owe it to you to lay out all the options we could think of. And besides, this is a non-binding blog, so roll with it. We know the arguments against this: there’s no need for infill; we’ll ruin the sight lines; where oh where will we dock the fancy boats; the criticisms go on and on. But let’s be real: you can count the number of mega yachts you’ve seen docked here in the past five years on one hand. So why not fill it in (we hear PortMiami is looking for a place to dump its dredged earth), build a waterfront soccer park, and bridge the gap between Museum Park, the Arena and Bayfront Park.
Got another candidate? We’d love to hear about it. Check up on our Facebook page and Twitter feed to keep up with our favorite reader posts and any other ideas that come out of the Soundbytes brain trust.