It’s been more than a year since we last checked in on David Beckham’s futile attempts to build a Major League Soccer stadium in Miami, to host an expansion MLS side. Back then, in May of 2017, Beckham and his fellow investors were on their fourth stadium site, in Overtown, after proposals for Dodge Island, Museum Park, and a plot next to Marlins Park fell apart for one reason or another. That was five full years after Beckham attached himself to the league’s plan to put a team in South Florida.
It will surprise absolutely no one to learn the Overtown project was also abandoned, after Miami businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas joined the ownership group and spiked the plan, for unspecified reasons. You’d think a fourth failure would be all she wrote, but there you’d be wrong. This summer the group announced a plan to build next to Miami International Airport, on the site of what is currently the city-owned Melreese Golf Course. And the plan is an ambitious one, per the Miami New Times:
The $1 billion project would include a 25,000-seat stadium, 600,000 square feet of space for restaurants and bars, 400,000 square feet of office space, thousands of parking spaces, more than 700 hotel rooms, and 110 acres of green space.
But there’s a problem, because of course there is, and it has nothing at all to do with Miami-area golfers getting their plaid britches all knotted up over the loss of 18 holes. Per a fresh report from the New Times, the soil under the golf course is rich in toxic waste, left over from a giant trash incinerator called Old Smokey that sat in the Coconut Grove neighborhood for half a century:
The company dug 50 holes up to three feet deep around the course and, in 36 of them, immediately found clear evidence of toxic ash. The ash was silty, “dark gray to black in color” with “brownish-red nodules” and plenty of burnt glass and metal shards, a sure sign of the waste. The thickness varied, but in some places “exceeded four feet in thickness.”
While the golf course reportedly used “existing engineering controls” to protect golfers and groundskeepers from the stuff, a commercial building project in the area, especially one featuring restaurants and hotel rooms, would presumably require a massively expensive cleanup project. Toxic ash cleanup at the nearby Grapeland Park site in 2006 reportedly cost something like $10 million, and involved the removal of “86,000 tons of toxic soil,” and that was for a project “a fraction of the size” of the stadium district proposal. The New Times report describes the anticipated cost of a cleanup of this size as “astronomical.”
It’s a fascinating report, and I recommend reading it in its entirety. Probably it’s time for Beckham and his partners to either move on to proposal number six for an MLS stadium site in Miami, or abandon this doomed project altogether.