I was thrilled to hear that the Beckham-Claure group finally acknowledged that the location next to Marlins Park was the most feasible for their potential new MLS franchise. In listening to sports talk radio over the last few days, a consensus has emerged; it’s a great opportunity for Miami to get a MLS franchise without having to pay for a stadium, but what a shame about the location.
Why? I’m confident you’ve already heard this explanation. “MLS prefers smaller stadiums and urban settings for their franchises, where people can walk to the games and enjoy restaurants and bars nearby to foster the fan experience.” The last time a party line has come together so quickly was the framing of Lee Harvey Oswald, at least according to Oliver Stone.
I decided to check on the most recently awarded MLS franchises and compare reality with the conventional wisdom about MLS criteria regarding stadium size and urban settings.
The detail is below, but you guessed it, the conventional wisdom doesn’t match reality in 4 out of the last 5 franchises MLS has awarded. As would be expected, downtown real estate is too expensive for soccer stadiums everywhere, not just Miami. The exceptions are old stadiums which have been renovated over the years [Portland], or publicly financed construction and ownership of a facility [Seattle].
So if you come across ‘that guy,’ people who think soccer would be great here, but just not at the most obvious and feasible location, just a reminder to trust your instincts, they don’t know what they are talking about.
#1 – San Jose Earthquakes in 2015:
- Capacity 18,000
- Privately financed
- Stadium opened 1 year past schedule
- Not Downtown – location so close to airport that property needed to be rezoned
- San Jose addressed the lack of nearby entertainment by including the “Largest Outdoor Bar In North America” as part of the stadium
#2 – Orlando City FC in 2015:
- Currently playing in the Citrus Bowl, capacity 65,438, built in 1936 – 19,500 for soccer
- Similarities to Miami in that a wealthy South American businessman, Flávio Augusto da Silva, is a majority owner
- Ownership just committed to privately finance the entire cost of a new stadium [capacity 25,000] after efforts at getting public monies failed
- City of Orlando donated $4 million land parcel to build stadium. Will be located next to home of Orlando Magic in the Downtown district.
#3 – New York City FC in 2015:
- Capacity 54,251 – 27,470 for soccer
- Yankee Stadium was massively subsidized
- Fans don’t stroll through this neighborhood to the games, they run
#4 – Houston Dynamo in 2012:
- Capacity 22,039
- The city of Houston committed $35 million towards the stadium
- Not Downtown. If a realtor was selling this they might say that Downtown is visible from stadium skyline
#5 – Montreal Impact in 2012:
- Capacity 20,801
- The Quebec government contributed $23 million to increase stadium capacity
- Not Downtown. In fact, built in the shadows of one of the great white elephants of all time, site of the 1976 Olympics. Quebec just finished paying for them in 2006, referred to as The Big Owe.