Miami officials have discussed an alternative to Overtown for a Miami MLS stadium site, with the city-owned Melreese golf course pitched as an option.
Miami’s upcoming MLS expansion franchise is owned by a group that includes David Beckham, and also features the backing of prominent local businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas, American Idol founder Simon Fuller, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. Recent reports have indicated that the group is broadening its scope for the stadium project, prompting discussion that the concept has become too large for the nine-acre Overtown site and might be more viable at another location.
Officials are confirming that Miami city manager Emilio González met with Jorge and Jose Mas on Monday, and floated the idea of developing the project at the Melreese site. Located near Miami International Airport, the 180-acre site would offer enough land for the group to construct a new MLS stadium and surrounding development. The concept that is being discussed could lead to the city leasing at least a portion of the site to the MLS group, while possibly leaving some existing uses in place.
Miami mayor Francis Suarez is among those willing to discuss alternatives to the Overtown site, but a referendum could be one of the hurdles to leasing the Melreese site to the MLS group. More from The Miami Herald:
Renting Melreese as a stadium site may rest with voters, with a referendum possible either in August or November, sources familiar with the talks said. Suarez said he suspected a referendum would be called before turning over the public land to the Beckham venture. The plan would be to lease a portion of Melreese to the Beckham group, with some areas of the existing park offerings remaining. That could include a reduced golf facility — such as a nine-hole course or a driving range.
Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo said he pitched Melreese as an option during a phone conversation with José Mas days before the Jan. 29 event at the Adrienne Arsht center in downtown Miami, where MLS Commissioner Don Garber officially welcomed Beckham’s Miami franchise into the league.
Though he supports the concept, Carollo said he’s already concerned about Miami giving Beckham too good of a deal at Melreese the expense of taxpayers.
“I’m not going to give the land away,” he said. Citing public land and money for Miami’s other sports arena, Marlins Park and the AmericanAirlines Arena, Carollo cited past “sweetheart” stadium deals. “I’m not about to go for number three.”
The Miami MLS stadium effort has been focused on the nine-acre Overtown site late 2015, when Beckham’s group announced it as its preferred location. Although a vote by Miami-Dade County officials last June allows the group to move forward with a $9-million purchase of a three-acre county-owned parcel at the site, it has not officially closed on that land and some other issues must be addressed. Bruce Matheson continues to argue that the county-owned parcel was sold below fair market value and should have been subjected to a bid process, and he recently appealed a previous ruling to dismiss his lawsuit. Furthermore, additional governmental approval is still required for certain aspects of the stadium plan, and some residents in Overtown and the adjacent Spring Garden neighborhood are voicing their opposition to the project.
MLS announced details in January for the Miami squad. Set to be the league’s 25th team, it is projected to begin play in 2020.
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