Soccer icon David Beckham wants to build a plush facility in Miami to house his new Major League Soccer team.
Erik Compton and The First Tee of Miami have other ideas.
The two sides are battling for control of an area in the Miami Freedom Park complex that currently houses the city’s only public golf course and is home to The First Tee program.
According to the Sun Sentinel, Beckham and his partner, Jorge Mas, a prominent South Florida businessman, met Thursday with the Miami City Commission in an effort to gain approval to put their latest stadium plan – which calls for a 25,000-seat stadium, youth soccer fields and a restaurant – up for a city referendum. The land is currently the site of Melreese Golf Course, which is home to The First Tee of Miami.
An impassioned group of First Tee members in matching orange shirts, as well as former PGA Tour pro and local resident Compton, attended the commission meeting and presented a petition with more than 23,000 signatures in support of keeping the golf facility intact, as it allows thousands of kids access to the game.
"I’ve had the opportunity to play very beautiful golf courses all around the world," Compton said. "Melreese is a very special place. Soccer can fit in Miami, but not at Melreese. These kids have nowhere to go if you take away Melreese. Soccer doesn’t belong at Melreese. The kids belong there."
Said Beckham, “It’s been a long time before I’ve walked into a room and people have not smiled at me.
“It’s not a nice feeling. So, I hope that today you realize what we’re trying to do for the city of Miami. … We want to do the right thing for your children and your children’s children.”
The five-person commission did not vote to move the proposal forward Thursday night, and will hold another meeting July 18. It could advance the stadium plan to the city-wide ballot on Nov. 6.