Miami-Dade School Board Wants To Join Deal For Pro Soccer Stadium

Oct 22, 2015

Miami-Dade school leaders are interested in joining a land deal to build a pro soccer stadium in Little Havana next to Marlins Park that the school district could also use.

The school board told Superintendent Alberto Carvalho Thursday he could join talks between the city of Miami and the team, whose ownership includes former soccer star David Beckham.

Broadly, the city would donate land for the stadium and the school district would own the stadium. The team owners would pay no property taxes for the stadium and would sign a long-term contract to pay an annual management fee.

The Beckham-led ownership group has pursued a downtown stadium site since 2013.

Carvalho said the school district got nothing when the Miami Heat and the Marlins negotiated deals for their stadiums.

Carvalho said the school district should help Beckham put a Major League Soccer team in Miami. But the district should make sure students get some benefit at the same time.

“If we do nothing, the county would proceed -- probably -- as the main entity,” he said. “And I have not heard any plan that would result in benefit to us.”

That could include using the stadium for high school football – the American version – marching band competitions, graduations and other events.

The district pays more than $1 million annually to rent facilities for games, graduations and other events. Carvalho said it would cost the district between $40 million and $50 million to build a similar stadium on its own.

But school board member Marta Perez said the deal creates an ethical question for her.

“We’re being asked to help a private entity evade paying taxes,” she said.

Carvalho and  board member Raquel Regaldo said the team is not likely to pay taxes on the property anyway. If the school district said no to the deal, Miami-Dade County probably could grant tax-free status.

School board members said they were willing to let Carvalho join the negotiations. The board did not have to vote on the idea yet, however.

The terms of the deal need to be negotiated. Carvalho said they could include a partnership with the team and space at the stadium for a school or other educational use.

Also unclear is who would pay to maintain the stadium and what would happen if the team wanted to end the long-term deal early.

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said the city would let residents vote on the deal, though no referendum is required.