MIAMI (AP) — Two months have passed since English soccer star David Beckham hopped on a stage, his back to Miami's sparkling Biscayne Bay, and announced plans to start a Major League Soccer franchise. The plan — and Beckham — have been almost universally accepted by every sector of the city.
What his international fame has not been able to attract: agreement on where to put the stadium.
"Until a few weeks ago, it was very smooth," Beckham said. "And nothing that wants to be — in my eyes, has to be — successful, was ever going to be that smooth."
Beckham and his team have set their sights on the Port of Miami, 520 acres known as the "Cruise Ship Capital of the World" and the "Cargo Gateway to the Americas." Nearly every portion of the port has been developed, with one notable exception: The southwest corner with a spectacular Miami skyline view .
The plan's chief opponent is the Miami Seaport Alliance, a coalition of business and political leaders including Royal Caribbean Cruises, one of the world's largest cruise operators. Its offices are next to the proposed site.
The alliance contends the stadium would threaten cruise and cargo operations, creating increased traffic and security risks — concerns Beckham's partners insist are unfounded. The coalition also argues a stadium would ultimately endanger the 207,000 jobs the port supports, while creating less-lucrative positions like concession stand employees.
"A soccer stadium at PortMiami is downright nutty," declares an ad the coalition printed in several newspapers.
There is much at stake for the port: The county is spending more than $2 billion on capital improvements to make Miami a global logistics hub. The port is being deepened to accommodate the larger ships that will traverse the expanded Panama Canal, set to open in 2015. The port is about $1 billion in debt, making it one of the nation's most indebted. Moody's recently cut its credit rating.
"We're talking about huge economic input or huge economic loss," said John Fox, the alliance's president and a former Royal Caribbean executive.
One option mentioned to improve the port's finances: Commercial development of the port's southwest corner. The port's master plan notes commercial real estate income generates revenue for other ports, but opponents say Beckham's plan won't provide that.
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