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FEBRUARY 4, 2016

AFTER ALL ELSE FAILED, THE BECKHAM GROUP DECIDED TO PUT THEIR SOCCER STADIUM IN OVERTOWN

AND NOW PEOPLE LIKE MICHAEL PUTNEY ARE PISSED BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT GOING TO BUILD PARKING GARAGES. FOLKS SHOULD BE CONCERNED, BUT NOT NECESSARILY OVER THE LACK OF ON-SITE PARKING, BECAUSE THE BECKHAM GROUP IS NOT AS CRAZY AS PUTNEY AND OTHERS WOULD HAVE YOU THINK THEY ARE

About every 18 months or so I find myself writing a story where I piss off Michael Putney. (Those stories are HERE and HERE)


I suspect that after giving his ”Personal Perspective” on his last show about the craziness of the Beckham group’s decision to build a soccer stadium without providing for on-site parking this story will probably not make him happy.


For good measure,  I’m sure that I’ll probably piss off some other folks as well, because you see, I too used to believe that it was crazy for the Beckham group to claim that they could build their soccer stadium without having to build any parking garages or parking lots, but crazy things always prompt me to wonder whether in fact they really are crazy, and  Tthis time after doing some research I’ve come to the conclusion that the Beckham folks are not as crazy as Putney and others would have you believe.


Now, before I get to what this piece is about let me be VERY CLEAR on what it is NOT about. It is not about how many days the stadium will be used nor not used. It is not about the alleged drop in property values for some of the residents of Spring Garden, or about their concerns about people wandering through their streets or parking in front of their houses. It is not about what impact the stadium will have on Overtown, good or bad, or whether it’s construction will lead to gentrification, or lead to a decline in property vales and a destruction of the neighborhood. Neither is it about whether the stadium will lead to the destruction of Culmer Gardens or Culmer Place.


These, and a lot of other issues including the issue of deeding over a portion of  7th street by the City are all valid and legitimate issues that warrant discussion, but I’m writing today ONLY on the issue of PARKING, and whether the Beckham folks are correct, and Michael Putney and others are wrong to claim that the soccer stadium will fail because the Beckham folks don’t plan to build parking garages to accommodate 5000 to 6000 cars.


I should also preface this by saying that I think a large part of the reason that the lack of on-site parking garages and/or lots has become such an issue is that the Beckham group, while they might have done their homework on the various options that led to their conclusion have done a piss-poor job since then in putting together a serious outreach to the media, civic groups and the community-at-large about how they came to the conclusion that they could build their stadium without parking garages or lots.


A little bit over a week ago, Spencer Crowley, one of the attorney’s from the law firm Ackerman LLC who are representing the Beckham group showed up at a meeting of the Young Republicans to make a presentation about the stadium and the parking issues, and although he brought a long a couple arial maps of the area that included diagrams of off-site parking garages and lots, along with identifying the location of the relevant Metrorail and MetroMover stations, he really didn’t spend anywhere the amount of time or effort that should have been spent in explaining how all of this fitted into the Beckham group’s reasoning not to build any on-site garages or lots. (My video of Crowley’s presentation can be seen HERE.)


Now, I don’t blame Crowley because it’s not his job to be showing up at meetings like this to try and explain parking issues. The arial maps that he showed up with, while informative, needed a better and more detailed explanation to make them more understandable, and I’m surprised that no one involved with the Beckham group came to that conclusion before sending Crowley out, because it actually is explainable and reasonable to see how the Beckham group came to the conclusions that they have.


Below are the arial maps that Crowley brought to the meeting.  The first identifies the 12,380 parking spaces in garages that are within a 15 minute walk from the stadium. If you accept the fact that most people who drive to the games will come with one or more passengers, then just these spaces would easily accommodate a a sizable, if not majority of the 25,000 projected fans the stadium is being built to hold.


Like I said, I don’t think that the Beckham group has done itself any favors by not including more information to go along with these diagrams to identity with even more specificity the location of these garages, and to point out that with the use of a half-dozen shuttle buses to provide transportation for those who don’t, or can’t walk the 4 to 5 blocks a sizable number of soccer fans could easily be moved to and from of the stadium and these parking garages.


If you look at the Numbers (1) and (2) that I’ve identified in the first diagram below, both of those locations involve All Aboard Florida’s new parking garages that are currently being built as part of their complex of buildings, as well as the 900 plus spaces already in place at the Overtown Transit Village. 


The 2467 spaces are 4 blocks away from the stadium, and the 1200 spaces will be in the new All Aboard Station complex will be 5 blocks away. Both locations are accessible on a straight line by walking west on 6th or 8th Streets. 


If you look at Number (3), those 5700 spaces are in the parking garages at the Marlin’s Stadium .Agreed, they’re further away, but they too could easily accommodate a spillover crowd, and running shuttle buses from the stadium to the west side of the 5th Street Bridge - which is but a block away from the stadium - could also move a large number of people to and from the stadium.

1

2

3

The big surprise for me, and one of the things that seemed to offend Putney the most was the notion that the Beckham folks believed that folks in Miami would use public transit to go to the games.


Here’s that he said about that:


“I think that folks in South Florida love their cars and they don’t like walking many blocks to see a game, not to go to see the Heat, Panthers, Marlins or Dolphins.


I suspect that Michael Putney has reached that opinion in large part on the fact as a privileged newsman he gets driven to the front door of the stories he covers, and that in his personal life he’s become accustomed to valet services. If Putney does any walking, chances are it’s on a treadmill, and not on the streets like most folks do.


I say that because he also opined that for those folks taking the Metrorail to Culmer Station, which is 3 blocks, and approximately 1200 feet from the stadium that would probably not work because ”folks coming by mass transit would have a pretty good trek.”


Below is the 2nd diagram that Crowley brought with him to the Young Republican meeting, and I’ve taking the liberty of adding the Yellow line to better illustrate how far the Metrorail Station is from the proposed stadium.

To get a better appreciation of the distance from the Culmer Metrorail Station to the site of the soccer stadium I went and took the below photo from the corner where the Culmer Station is located looking toward 8th Steet, where the corner of the soccer stadium closest to the station will be.  The Red arrow shows you where that’s at.


I suspect that even Putney could make that “trek” without too much trouble.

As for Putney’s claims about the fans of other sports teams not willing to walk very far to see a game, below is an arial shot of Dolphin stadium and all of the cars parked in the lot at the top of the photo are as far, if nor further from the stadium that the distance that soccer fans will have to walk from Culmer Station to the stadium, and I understand that parking lots to the east are as far, or further away.


Now that Heat fans can no longer park in any of the surface lots that have been sealed off for the Miami Worldcenter project, they too are having to park further away, and I’ve heard no complaints about that being a major problem affecting attendance at their games even though some of them too have to walk further to see a Heat game than fans will have to walk to see a soccer game.

The biggest surprise that I discovered when I started looking into all of this was the fact that the Metrorail is capable of moving thousands of fans from either Kendall to the south or Medley to the north every 7 minutes in 6 car trains capable carrying as many as 225 passenger per car, or 1350 passengers per train to the Culmer Station. 


That means that with 8 trains an hour coming from both the south and the north, a total of 21,600 soccer fans could be either deposited or taken away from the area in 1 hour.


Now, I don’t expect that he Beckham folks actually think they’re going to get this volume of soccer fans taking a Metrorail train to go to their games, but Neither do I think it unreasonable to expect that they could see anywhere from 5000 to 10,000 fans taking a train, especially all those folks in The south and southwest part of the county who could drive to one of the southern stations, park their cars and then take the train.


That to me seems very doable, and when you factor in the parking garage off of NW 6th Street and the expected parking arrangements that will end up being made with the owners of the numerous empty lots in the area - including a City of Miami lot on the corner of NW 6th Street and 6th Avenue directly across the street from the stadium, it becomes easier to see and understand why the Beckham folks concluded that they could build their stadium without having to build parking garages or parking lots.


Two other issues need to be addressed regarding the use of Metrorail and the claim by the Beckham folks about fans “marching” to the games.


Yes, in Europe, and especially England there a tradition of street fighting between the fans of various teams and what is described as “hooliganism” is part of a more complex set of issues in those countries and the larger worldwide phenomenon associated with sports crowd violence that in this country has manifested itself most often after championship games in college and pro football as well as in basketball, and the claim or expectation that we in Miami can expect to see street battles after soccer games, given the fan behavior in this community over the years I don’t think is the kind of concern that could, or should ever be used as an argument for people to forgo using public transportation to go to a soccer game.


Alcohol use on the other hand is a problem that cannot be ignored, especially after one speaker at Tuesday night District 5 Town Meeting pointed out that drunks aren’t allowed on the Metrorail.  This is a problem that the Beckham folks will have to figure out how to deal with, because having a couple thousand drunk fans - as the critics I’m sure will allege will happen - is not a pleasant thought to contemplate, whether they ride the Metrorail or just stagger down the street.


Neither of these problems - “hooligans,” or drunks - are problems that should be used as a justification or rationale for demanding that a sport franchise can only operate in Miami by building garages to accommodate 5 or 6 thousand cars.


Now of course the best laid plans of mice and men are always subject to to the vagaries of human nature, and folks in Miami do indeed love their cars, but at the same time people love their money too - often a lot more than their cars - and given that the Beckham group is willing to spend upwards of $150 million dollars to build this stadium it’s kind of hard not to figure that maybe they gave this project and the attendant parking problems a lot more thought than Michael Putney.


I would be the first to both agree and argue that what the Beckham folks are attempting to do by essentially forcing their fans to use public transportation comes under the definition of social engineering, and the use of that term brings up all kinds of crazy and wacky notions that tends to set some people off, but given the horrendous traffic problems that we have, and will continue to have as a result of all the the uncontrolled development of in both the city and elsewhere in the county, the notion that a guy like Putney would spend so little time and effort into looking into the possibilities behind the decision as to why the Beckham people decided to forgo building parking garage strikes me as a knee-jerk reaction of an old, wealthy and privileged guy who lives in Aventura and gets chauffeured around a lot when he’s on the job, even to the point of parking on public sidewalks as news folks are want to do.


There’s been a lot of knee-jerk reaction about this issue, and most of it has been from the very same people who if you say the word “traffic” in front of them will bend your ear telling you how bad it is, and how things need to be done to change whatever needs to be changed in order to deal with the problem.


Well, this is one of those changes that’s being proposed, and as wacky as some folks think it is, it does deserve a chance to be considered without someone like Michael Putney using his TV soapbox to basically call Beckham and his folks morons, and the citizens of this community dolts incapable of maybe realizing that using public transportation to go to a soccer game might be one way to contribute to reducing the traffic nightmare we all keep bitching about!


Get it together Michael.  Put on some sneakers and get out and actually walk the streets and you’ll see that maybe it’s isn’t as horrible as you think!  A lot more people than you think actually do it every day, and if there is chance to get even more people to do it, then the least you can do is not have the attitude of a privileged dick in putting down the effort down!


It’s Miami, Bitches!


FOR THE RECORD:  I am not a soccer fan, have no desire or intention to go to a soccer game, and have definitely NOT been paid or promised anything by anyone to write this story, but I do support anything that gets people to start thinking and using whenever possible public transportation, and I think that effort deserves everyone’s support, including mine, even if I love my car as much as everyone else in South Florida.