Commissioners Approve Miami MLS Stadium Proposal for November Ballot

Miami MLS Stadium rendering

After some uncertainty, Miami City Commissioners voted Wednesday afternoon to send a Miami MLS stadium proposal to the November voter ballot. 

The Miami MLS expansion franchise is backed by a group that is headlined by David Beckham, and also features prominent local businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas, American Idol founder Simon Fuller, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. In order to build a facility that is attached to a larger development concept, the group is pitching the construction of a new stadium and surrounding amenities at the site of the city-owned Melreese Country Club.

Last week, city commissioners were expected to vote on whether to send the proposal to the November voter ballot. However, the vote was delayed in order to continue negotiations after it was clear that two commissioners were in favor with two opposed, leaving Commissioner Ken Russell as the swing vote. Despite some revisions to the original proposal, Russell’s support was not assured ahead of Wednesday’s vote. However, Russell ultimately opted to in favor of sending the proposal to the November ballot, citing concessions from the MLS group when it came to living wage requirements. That proved to be the difference in a 3-2 vote. More from the Miami Herald:

In that 3-2 vote, commissioners Manolo Reyes and Willy Gort dissented.

“I had resigned myself to voting no,” Russell said during the break, describing his thoughts after a late-night meeting with [Jorge] Mas that concluded hours before Wednesday’s morning meeting. “All the issues I demanded concessions for were issues the residents had brought for me.”

His outstanding sticking point after the late-night meeting: a $15 minimum wage for all employees at Miami Freedom Park, a proposed stadium and commercial complex that would replace Melreese.

Mas offered a verbal concession, with a caveat. He pledged to pay all employees of the team ownership the living wage, including janitorial staff, groundskeepers, stadium workers, etc. He also agreed to mandate a living wage from his tenants who would lease commercial space in the development, though that would begin as an $11 wage in the first year and increase annually until it reaches $15.

The buildup to November should draw plenty of attention to the proposal, both from supporters and opponents. There will likely be support for a new stadium and surrounding development that plays host to Miami’s long-awaited MLS expansion club, but Melreese is the only public golf course within the city limits, and it is expected that any ballot measure would face some opposition to redeveloping the site for a new stadium project.

It should also be noted that the referendum will merely authorize the city to negotiate a stadium deal — it would not in and of itself move the project forward. Beckham and his group would still have to negotiate lease terms with the City of Miami, and that agreement will need approval from at least four of Miami’s five commissioners.

Dubbed Miami Freedom Park, the proposal calls for a new stadium, along with surrounding development that includes hotels, retail, office, and park space. The MLS group would enter into a lease of up to 99 years. The group was previously focused on a nine-acre site in the city’s Overtown neighborhood, but the push for an alternative site was prompted by a desire for a larger location that could acommodate surrounding development.

Rendering courtesy Arquitectonica. 

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