Sat, Feb 03, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Miamians call foul over Beckham venture

AFP, MIAMI

David Beckham has finally achieved his goal of bringing Major League Soccer (MSL) to Miami, but the prospect of a stadium without parking that drives up housing costs in a low-income neighborhood is no hit with residents.

The former England captain and glitzy star of storied Champions League teams was on Monday formally awarded an MLS franchise, but key details remain up in the air, such as its name and logo and when it will debut.

For the 25,000-stadium, the investor group led by Beckham has acquired land in an area called Overtown, a working-class district between downtown and Little Havana.

They still need to buy one more piece of land, but for now the deal is held up in court by a lawsuit. The investors are confident they will prevail.

“Our 24th team now is in Miami. The stadium is in the Overtown site,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said.

One problem is that Miami is already choked with traffic and the stadium will not have its own parking lots.

And people in the neighborhood fear housing costs that are already rising will force them to move away as they keep going up.

“We are largely overwhelmed by the larger forces in the community that are out there. Our voices are not being heard sufficiently,” said Ernest Martin, a member of the Miami River Commission, an association of people living near the waterway.

Martin was especially critical of the lack of parking.

However, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that although the stadium itself would not have on-site parking, there are plenty of big lots two to three blocks from the planned arena.

He also pointed to public transport, but people in Miami love their cars.

The problem of rising housing costs comes with gentrification. Overtown is a black-majority neighborhood of about 13,000 people, and 24 percent of the residents earn less than US$10,000 a year, well below the poverty level.

“This has been a low-income housing area for many years,” Martin told reporters at his home along the river.

“Ultimately the big increase in rent for the area will cause Overtown to become a more select area for residential users,” he added.

The barren lot of land where the stadium is supposed to go up is surrounded by a fence on which neighbors have hung a sign that reads: “No to the stadium.”

Nearby are modest apartment buildings and a few shops. At a corner liquor store, the cashier tends to customers from behind bullet proof glass. The storefront is protected by iron bars.

Douglas Romero, a 27-year-old resident of Overtown, said that this year his rent has already gone from US$1,050 a month to US$1,200.

“I’m a little worried, you know,” Romero said, holding his four-year-old son. “The prices of rent have been going up lately, starting in January. The only thing would be, if prices go up, you know, everybody looks to move. Everybody looks for somewhere else.”

It is not even the city’s first tryst with MLS.

Its first team, Miami Fusion, made their debut in 1998, but only played for four seasons before being cut from the league after the 2001 campaign amid low ticket sales and the lowest revenues of any team in the competition.

Soccer in the US is nowhere near as popular as baseball, basketball or American football, but Beckham and his fellow investors are counting on the cultural diversity of Miami — with its large Hispanic and Caribbean populations — to attract fans.

This story has been viewed 1611 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top