EE&G warns Beckham MLS site ‘contaminated’ with arsenic

30 August 2019 3 min. read
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David Beckham’s Major League Soccer franchise has been handed a major set-back, with the news that its proposed stadium site is contaminated with arsenic. According to a report from consultancy EE&G, the former England could be set to foot a £41 million bill to remove the deadly toxin, if Inter Miami still intends to make use of the location.

When former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder David Beckham signed with LA Galaxy in 2007, one of the things broadly overlooked in his Major League Soccer (MLS) contract was the option to own an expansion team at a discounted franchise fee. The MLS does not operate a system of promotion and relegation as is the case in more competitive footballing nations, so the opportunity for Beckham to buy his way in for a reduced price constituted something of a coup.

Following his retirement from professional football, the ex-England skipper quickly set about the establishing of Inter Miami CF, a club which he is co-owner and President of. The team is due to begin play in the MLS in 2020, with its permanent home stadium opening a season or two later pending final decisions about financing and location. This is where the situation has become significantly more complicated, however.

EE&G warns Beckham MLS site ‘contaminated’ with arsenic

After a sustained period of negotiation to find a new home, Inter Miami succeeded in finding a viable location, and the city itself that the fit would be a good one. In November 2018, a referendum saw roughly 60% of city voters approve a measure to convert a city-owned golf course near the international airport into Inter Miami's new arena, provisionally named Miami Freedom Park. While Beckham’s franchise would have been keen to start work on the ground, however, a spanner has been thrown in the works by a new environmental report from a consulting firm commissioned by Inter Miami.

According to an analysis of the area by EE&G – one of the oldest firms in Florida focused on environmental consulting, engineering, and contracting – the 131-acre site features arsenic contamination of more than twice the legal limit. Following the taking of more than 140 soil samples, some spots of contamination were found as shallow as 15 centimetres deep, hazardous debris was found in surface-level soil samples, and barium and lead levels are also above legal limits at the Melreese golf course.

EE&G concluded, "The debris included fragments of tile, metal and glass, mixed with fine-grain sands, which often exhibited a rusty colour. Intermittent wood fragments were encountered along with concrete and other non-native materials, but not evidence of municipal garbage."

After the findings were reported to city commissioners – who confirmed the site was the largest contaminated park in the city's portfolio – Inter Miami said it would not seek public funds dollars to pay for the clean-up. If Beckham and co. decide to push ahead with the project, it could cost them as much as £41 million, though it is as of yet unclear whether the news has change Inter Miami’s plans.

In the meantime, the park has been closed “until further notice” by city officials, while further tests are carried out. Inter Miami’s lawyers have meanwhile commented that they still expect to submit a 99-year lease proposal in September, while the team itself is due to begin life in the MLS from next season, playing in an 18,000-seater stadium at a separate site in Fort Lauderdale until the proposed bigger development can be completed.