David Beckham's plans to build a soccer stadium in the southwest corner of Miami face legal obstacles because the city deeded that land to Miami-Dade county more than two decades ago on condition it be exclusively used for port purposes, Mayor Tomas Regalado said.
"The clause is very specific and very clear from a legal standpoint. It says that if the port's lands are not used for port purposes then property reverts to the city of Miami," the Miami mayor said.
Regalado said that while he has no intention of going to the courts "and starting litigation", the city of Miami wants "to be part of that conversation".
The mayor added that he favoured bringing the matter to a vote in a referendum so "the public can say if they really want a stadium at PortMiami or not".
When the city deeded the parcel in question to Miami-Dade more than 20 years ago, a restriction in the legal document made clear that the county would have control over the development of the port and its activities as long as the land was used exclusively for port purposes.
A debate has surged in recent years over what to do with the southwest corner of the port, where Beckham wants to build a stadium for his newly-awarded Major League Soccer franchise, since that area "cannot be used for cargo ships or cruise liners because it is too shallow," county spokesperson Fernando Figueredo.
In the county's opinion, the restriction in the deed "is very much open to interpretation", he said.
The county government has contemplated various development alternatives for the port's southwest corner, including a marina, stores, restaurants and a hotel, which would be "a complex similar to what nearly all major ports around the world have," Figueredo said.
Beckham has said the stadium would fit in with the county's commercial development plans for the port.
Any project presented by the retired English soccer star and his investors "must convince me that it's the best thing for the port and for the county's residents", Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said.
Although Beckham has not yet officially presented his stadium plan to the County Commission, the first signs of opposition have already emerged.
Royal Caribbean Cruises, the only cruise company whose headquarters are located at Miami, has expressed concerns that a stadium would bring heavier auto traffic and interfere with its own development plans for that same site.