After David Beckham’s press conference to formally announce that he has bought the franchise rights to a Major League Soccer team that will call Miami home, I walked away from the event with more questions than answers, a lack of confidence that Beckham and his investors are anywhere close to having a sound financial plan in place, and — most worryingly of all — the opinion that Beckham does not understand the Miami market.
In Wednesday’s press conference, Beckham held up Seattle as an example of what he wants to see in Miami, with fans walking en-masse to the stadium:
“The [stadium] will be downtown. I think it’s important that we are in this part of the city because I’ve seen what [the owners of the Miami Heat] have done. I’ve seen the arena. I’ve seen the buzz.
“Soccer fans love to commute. They love to walk. I’m hoping that’s the same in Miami.
“I’ve seen what it’s like in Seattle. I’ve seen the fans, the way the passion is there. I know we’re going to have that here.”
Without any shadow of a doubt, Miami is not Seattle. There are huge differences between both cities:
1) Residents of South Florida love to drive. It’s rare that you see people walking down the streets, partly because of the heat and humidity, but South Florida and Miami is definitely not a walking community.
2) Downtown Seattle is not downtown Miami. Downtown Seattle is a thriving area where people live, work and play. While downtown Miami is growing and under renovation, there isn’t that same buzz downtown. You don’t get a sense that you’re in a community. Once the five o’clock whistle sounds, there’s typically a mass exodus of people as they head north, west or south.
Beckham and Claure have declared that they have their hearts set on building a stadium in downtown Miami. Both men envision soccer fans parking their cars in downtown Miami and then walking across the Port Boulevard bridge which, at its shortest distance, is 0.5 miles uphill. That doesn’t sound that bad, but that’s the best case scenario. With 20,000 fans in the downtown area, it’s possible that fans will have to park farther away in downtown so the walk would be greater. Even at 0.5-1.0 miles, you have to consider the scorching heat and humidity. If you’ve ever walked in South Florida for that distance between March-September, you’ll know how uncomfortable the weather is.
When Beckham said that soccer fans love to commute and love to walk, that’s true. But that doesn’t mean that the same applies to South Florida. And for Beckham to believe that, it shows how out of touch he is with the South Florida region. I’d like to see Beckham take the walk himself in the sweltering summertime heat to get a better understanding of what it feels like.
If Beckham does decide on the PortMiami option, walking is the only solution to get that many fans over the bridge to the stadium. There’ll be little to no parking available around the stadium itself.