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Beckham plans hit stormy waters

Miami: David Beckham’s dream of building a futuristic waterfront stadium in Miami, that would house his own professional soccer team, has turned into a “not in my backyard” clash, pitting the retired English superstar against one of the world’s top cruise lines.

Royal Caribbean Cruises is at the forefront of efforts to block Beckham’s plans to build a 25,000 seat open-air stadium next to the port of Miami.

The cruise line is spearheading a group called the Miami Seaport Alliance, which has paid for full-page newspaper ads and TV and radio spots opposing Beckham’s plans. The alliance says a stadium would threaten the 200,000 jobs generated by the port, which is owned and operated by Miami-Dade County.

The port, built on a landfill island close to downtown, calls itself the “cruise capital of the world,” handling more than 4 million passengers in 2013. Formally known as PortMiami, it is also a large cargo container facility.

“A soccer stadium at PortMiami is downright nutty,” according to one ad by the alliance. “We cannot jeopardize well-paying jobs, like crane operators, longshore workers, and mechanics, for low-paying stadium jobs, such as concession sales,” it adds.

Royal Caribbean said in a statement on Friday that a stadium would be a “poor use of (Miami’s) only port,” arguing it would disrupt cargo and cruise operations by adding at least 6,000 cars and 30,000 people to the downtown area.

John Fox, president of the Miami Seaport Alliance, who until recently headed government relations for Royal Caribbean in Washington, accused Beckham of a “land grab” this week, saying he suspected the stadium was a shoehorn for a much larger development plan on real estate close to the port entrance.

“We just don’t think they (Beckham’s group) are being honest with this community,” Fox said on Wednesday.

Beckham’s group, Beckham Miami United, insists the stadium must be located in a waterfront downtown setting, likening it to other franchises in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Neisen Kasdin, a land-use attorney with the Akerman law firm who represents Beckham’s group, called the alliance’s attacks “false and misleading.”

The proposed stadium site is on land already slated for commercial development by the port’s own master plan, he said. Located about 1km from the port entrance, the stadium would cause no problem for cruise ship or freight cargo operations, Kasdin added, noting games would be played mostly on Saturday evenings.

“It’s not a place you want to have out in the suburbs,” said Kasdin. “It’s great for the downtown life of a city.”

The influential Miami Association of Realtors and the Florida Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association said they have yet to take sides, despite being named by Fox as backers of the alliance.

Other key players have remained silent, including the two other major cruise lines at the port, Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line. The mayor of Miami Beach, Philip Levine, has joined those opposed to a stadium near the port.

Levine is chief executive of Royal Media Partners, a media company that handles all publications for Royal Caribbean and its subsidiaries. He said there was no conflict of interest. “We love soccer, but this is all about traffic,” he said.