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Why David Beckham’s Miami MLS Team Shouldn’t Play at Marlins Park or FIU Stadium

miami marlins stadium Why David Beckhams Miami MLS Team Shouldnt Play at Marlins Park or FIU Stadium

David Beckham is considering either Marlins Park or FIU Stadium as the temporary home for his Miami MLS franchise, according to Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez as reported by The Miami Herald.

A final decision has yet to be reached. And the comment from the Miami mayor is, of course, self-serving and biased in his favor, so there’s still an opportunity for Beckham to scout other locations than these two sites. At least I hope so.

And so begins the stadium debate, which may soon generate in a stadium debacle. Nothing has been confirmed. The team hasn’t even officially been announced yet, but if David Beckham selects Marlins Park or FIU Stadium as a temporary site for his Miami MLS franchise, his first move as an owner of a MLS team is one that’ll worry many of the South Florida residents who don’t live in Miami-Dade.

My concern is that because Beckham is being advised by Miami businessman Marcelo Claure (who has his own interests to protect as a member of the board of trustees of Florida International University), Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Simon Fuller (who isn’t from the area), then they’re basing their decisions purely on a Miami-centric viewpoint. By doing so, and putting the Miami MLS franchise in a temporary home of Marlins Park or FIU Stadium, they’re thumbing their noses at Broward County and Palm Beach County to the north, which represents a population base of 3.2 million (56% of the population of South Florida).

Of course, this is only based on a temporary home. A long-term solution of a stadium site near the Miami-Dade County line would be an ideal preferred location for the Miami MLS franchise because it would (1) be more accessible for residents of all three counties, and (2) still be able to retain the Miami name.

If the Miami MLS team selects either Marlins Park or FIU Stadium as its temporary home, the next most telling sign will be where it plans on building a permanent home. Even as a temporary site, Marlins Park or FIU Stadium will have a sold-out opening night. The concern is whether there are enough loyal soccer fans in Miami to continue to support the team six months later after the novelty has worn off.

Read — 8 Stadium Options for David Beckham’s Miami MLS Team

The reality is that club teams have failed on a consistent basis in Miami. There has never been a successfully supported soccer club team in Miami, while teams in Broward County — to the north of Miami — have averaged much higher attendances for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to Miami FC to Miami Fusion and to the latest incarnation of the Strikers.

If the permanent home for the Miami MLS team is built near either Marlins Park or FIU Stadium, both of those locations would discourage fans from Broward County and Palm Beach County from attending on a regular basis because of long commutes and traffic congestion. In doing so, Beckham then would put the team in the risky position of relying on Miami-Dade County soccer fans to support the team. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, the track record is strewn with a history of failures.

Read — Miami Is A Complex Market, But Beckham’s MLS Team Can Be A Success Here

While the sight lines at Marlins Park in downtown Miami are terrible for soccer (not surprising being a baseball stadium) and FIU Stadium is a modular stadium with poor facilities and an even poorer location (stuck in the middle of a college campus, and not conveniently located for soccer fans from the two northern counties), what other suitable options are there for Beckham to consider? The better alternative would have been Sun Life Stadium (which could use a tarp similar to what the Seattle Sounders does, when needed). The benefit of Sun Life Stadium is that the venue is practically unused from February through August, while a Miami MLS franchise at Marlins Park would have to compete with a baseball team whose schedule overlaps with MLS. The capacity of the stadium is too large for a MLS team in the Miami market, but which would be worse? A stadium that was more accessible for all three counties (Sun Life Stadium), a baseball stadium with poor sight lines that’s not made for soccer, or a college-football stadium that is not befitting a MLS team and would only be frequented by mostly Miami residents (who came out in their hundreds for some Miami FC games at the stadium)?

FIU Stadium could upgrade its playing turf (from its bouncy and uneven field turf)) as well as improving its facilities to make it into a less than perfect temporary solution.

But the true test for Beckham and his investors/advisors will be when they share their plans for a permanent stadium. Those blueprints will shine light on whether they understand the market or not, and whether they’ll make it “Miami’s team” or “South Florida’s team.”

Before he makes his final decision, let’s hope that Beckham speaks to advisors who represent South Florida, not just Miami.

This entry was posted in David Beckham, Leagues: Major League Soccer, Miami MLS Team. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

21 Responses to Why David Beckham’s Miami MLS Team Shouldn’t Play at Marlins Park or FIU Stadium

  1. F19 says:

    By even considering temporary stadiums they are shooting themselves in the foot right off the bat. Why start in a temp stadium? If they are so sure in their ability to get a new stadium built, why not wait?

    It’s because they aren’t sure. Nobody’s getting anything new built in Dade for a long time. Even if they privately fund the entire thing the only land is way out in the suburbs or further, far from the hip, urban image MLS wants this team to be about.

    At FIU or Marlins Park nobody from Broward or Palm Beach would go if Becks FC was the only team around. But it will be even worse because those northern fans already have a team that will still be around and offering more affordable tickets. The Strikers can capitalize big time if they have their heads on straight. They may even be able to get their own SSS built or Lockhart renovated before Becks comes anywhere close to a similar feat in Dade.

    Bring it on MLS. FTLTID

    • Roger says:

      Not sure you are right. Everything that has been talked about is a privately funded stadium. The City may help with the land but, Claure/Fuller/Beckham will build it themselves.

      • F19 says:

        Again even if they build it themselves it will have to be quite far away from the “Sexy Miami” they want. The location that’s been thrown around is northwest Dade, not coincidently near Brightstar Corporate HQ, 30-40 minutes from downtown Miami or South Beach. It’ll be Frisco – a total disconnect from the demographic and image they want.

    • Broward_Dade_Border says:

      Almost all CONCACAF games hosted at FIU stadium have been sold out with no complaints about parking etc. It is an extremely good venue for soccer with direct access to the turnpike.

      Anyone from Palm Beach who drives down as far as SunLife will not be bothered by a few more minutes down the turnpike to FIU. Marlin Park is another story as you can’t avoid the I95/826 traffic zone.

      Lockhart is a crappy venue in an industrial park. It never did nor never will have the image of big time football.

      • Christopher Harris says:

        On a good day, FIU Stadium is a minimum of 20 minutes further south than Sun Life Stadium. The commute from PB County to Sun Life Stadium is 50 minutes. From PB County to FIU, it’s typically an hour and 20 minutes.

        Plus, the flow of traffic in and out of the college campus can easily add another 30-60 minutes on top because there’s only one way in to get to the stadium, and the traffic crawls along just to get to a parking spot.

        • Broward_Dade_Border says:

          It is not only one way in to the stadium. You can enter from SW 8th St, SW 107 Ave or SW 117 Ave. Also the Fair grounds are just behind the stadium and generally has parking and access from SW 24th St.

          My point was that a PB resident who will invest an hour drive down to SunLife will also go 20 minutes more South. PB is not going to get a short trip anywhere in Dade, not even on the northern boundary.

  2. Roger says:

    It fails miserably in your scenario. The ONLY way this works is to get a stadium in or right around downtown Miami. This area is a hotbed for soccer (football). I work and used to live in Broward county. Most of the population doesn’t even know soccer exists except that their kids play it. Walk around brickell on the weekends. There are more TV’s on watching Barcelona or Real Madrid than NCAA or the NFL. The appeal is from the more urban market and not sticking up North.

    • F19 says:

      ….except people in Broward have proven time and again they will actually BUY TICKETS and ATTEND LOCAL SOCCER GAMES.

      People in Miami may love to watch Real or Barça, but those players aren’t playing in MLS anytime soon. Same with coming out for one off international friendlies. The crowd will be great for Brasil on Saturday surely. But when it came to supporting a local domestic team, Miami FC drew 1300 fans over the time they played in Miami. In 5 years they finished last in USL attendance 3 times and 2nd to last twice. Meanwhile this season, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers averaged a franchise record 4,265 fans a game, with the worst team in the league and the same meager marketing budget. For reference Seattle averaged 3300 in 2008, coming off a league title and going into MLS the next season. In 1976 the Miami Toros finished 2nd to last in NASL attendance, moved to Fort Lauderdale the next year and nearly tripled attendance. Over the next 7 years they had to expand Lockhart twice.

      If MLS didn’t have their heads up their asses with the nonsense phobia of all things NASL in 1998, and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers took the field at Lockhart, that team would still be around today. Same goes for Tampa Bay and also New York. They wouldn’t need a second team and the MetroBulls wouldn’t have had to be rebranded if they have just adopted the NY Cosmos as the NY team. Insulting the soccer tradition that came before them has cause MLS a bunch of trouble in some big markets. They got in right in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Montréal and even Orlando, as short as their preexisting history may be. Now it seems they’ve reverted back to 1996 mode, jumping at big flashy markets and NFL, college FB or even baseball stadiums, in places where there is little to no demand for domestic pro soccer.

  3. Marc L says:

    I wonder if there will be pressure to “get something” out of the utter and total disaster of Marlins Park and play there for at least the short term. (For those unaware – scumbag Jeff Loria basically scammed the County into paying literally billions to build the thing.)

    • Christopher Harris says:

      From a City of Miami perspective, it makes a lot if sense. The fear is that the stadium will become a white elephant if the Marlins move to another city or if attendance drops more than it already has.

      Marlins Park is a PR nightmare for Miami, so they’ll do everything they can to convince Beckham to have the team play there – even if its temporarily. But the stadium is not built for soccer. To most soccer fans, the stadium is a joke.

  4. Lucky Luciano says:

    Downtown location? check.
    Easy access from South Beach? check.
    Easy access from I 95? check
    Modern facilities/suits/concessions? check
    Ample parking? check
    Retractable roof to protect from heat and rain? check
    Pretty much ticks every box. They just need a temporary infield stand and its good to go.

    Only draw back I can see is that it isn’t close to Palm Beach County….

    • Rev Tony Turner says:

      Little Havana area of Miami Check
      Not safe area Check
      Miami People are TV watchers not live event watchersCheck
      All previous attempts at a team in Miami Dade have failed.Check
      All have moved to Broward Lockhart Stadium.Check
      Lockhart Stadium is almost SSS Needs Changing room update & Covered seats Check
      Won’t cost more than $5 million to turn it into a gem.Check
      Becks needs to buy Fort Lauderdale Strikers off Traffic sports & just call them Strikers FC. Check
      Already has 4,000 regular attendance.Check
      Lockhart is close to I-95 ,Turnpike & Tri Rail Station Check.

      • F19 says:

        Lockhart basically is an SSS, just needs some TLC to get it up to standards. The Strikers are the only tenant of the facility these days.

        And you know Tony the name can’t be messed with. All the value in the Strikers brand is the *Fort Lauderdale* Strikers. Nobody has ever gone to pro soccer games in Miami, let alone come to FTL to watch, why mess with decades of history to cater to people who don’t give a crap?

        • Broward_Dade_Border says:

          Lochhart is as crappy as a facility could get. It is in an industrial park so it has the same safety issues that you talked about for Marlin Park. There is also no possibility for fans (visiting or otherwise) to enjoy a meal, a drink or shop.

          • Alexander Gago - Strikers Until I Die! says:

            Lockhart need renovation, but the stadium is linked to a soccer culture to the local community.

    • F19 says:

      LOL Marlins Park is not downtown. You can see downtown Miami from there, but it ain’t downtown. It’s in the middle of a neighborhood. There is nothing hip or cool about Little Havana. Nobody is hanging around there after the game.

      There will be plenty of parking however, as by game four of the inaugural season the place will be as empty as a weekday afternoon Marlins game.

  5. Bartleby says:

    so why does Beckham get an MLS team again? What kind of Mickey Mouse bs is this?

    They wonder why no one wants to watch this league. Hello? Authenticity anyone?

    • andrew says:

      He wrote into his contract that he could purchase an MLS expansion team in any market but NY for $25M. Considering when he joined the last expansion fees paid were $10M by RSL and Chvias, it didn’t seem like something that was a big deal. However, Seattle paid $30M. Philly paid $35M. Portland, Vancouver, and Montreal paid $40M. NYCFC paid $100M. All of a sudden Beckham gets a team at a discount.

  6. WSW says:

    This is going to be the downfall of MLS, most teams have publicly-financed stadiums where they rent the stadium out to high school/college football and have football lines. I like the idea of NASL starting to have owners privately-finance stadiums and have it in their control and not up to city officials and whatever events they want.

  7. Alexander Gago - Strikers Until I Die! says:

    I wrote about how the Fort Lauderdale Strikers have brought about generations of culture driven fans. Now surrounded the game and the association in the community. In Broward County, soccer has ingrained itself into the local community culture of all walks of life are revolve around the Strikers, unlike Dade County soccer fans who support their country club in there homeland. Like Striker fans support their club here.

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