With a referendum likely in March 2016 to decide the fate of a soccer stadium in Miami for David Beckham’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team, a group of Caribbean-American soccer coaches, players and soccer enthusiasts are coordinating a campaign to support the plan.
Under this new deal, agreed to by Miami-Dade School Superintendent Albert Carvalho, Beckham will build with his own funds the 30,000 seat stadium estimated at $200 million, and assign ownership to MDPS. In return, Beckham’s group would save annual property taxes. The MDPS would also have use of the stadium for graduations, games and educational programming. The Beckham group would also assist the school board in funding school soccer teams.
The quid pro quo exchange will be fruitful for local youth soccer development, says West Kendall soccer coaches Richard Bayliss and Michael Thelwell, who are planning to launch a “soccer centralist” campaign to support the deal, as plans are underway to have the project placed as a referendum on the county’s presidential primary election ballot next March.
“Soccer is too positive a sport for South Florida’s youth to let this deal fail,” says Thelwell. “We plan to campaign to apprise voters of this so they support the MDPS deal.”
The group plans to raise funds for a media campaign to garner support for the deal from Miami-Dade voters with upcoming fundraiser showcase games among local school teams. Thelwell says the campaign will include radio ads, flyers, and spokesperson events.
The MDPS school board must formally approve the plan, but according to a staffer of the Miami School District “the board isn’t opposed to the deal.” Moreover, one of the strongest supporters for the deal is MDPS board member Raquel Regalado, in whose district the proposed stadium site falls.
Thelwell said he’s surprise it has taken so long for a decision to be made on a site for the soccer stadium, especially “since Beckham isn’t seeking funding from taxpayers. This shows lack of understanding about the popularity of soccer, and the benefits it can bring to a city.”