Legal Challenge to Miami MLS Stadium Referendum Could Get Hearing

New Miami Soccer Stadium Beckham

A legal challenge to a Miami MLS stadium referendum could receive a full hearing of evidence, marking a potential hurdle for the initiative. 

Last week, the Miami City Commission voted by a narrow 3-2 margin to send a proposed Miami MLS stadium development project, slated for the site of the city-owned Melreese Country Club, to the November ballot. The commission was acting under a deadline of sorts, as the county election department will finalize the fall ballot language on August 7.

Local attorney William Douglas Muir has filed a legal challenge, contending that the city did not properly follow its charter when it approved the ballot measure. The MLS group–which is headlined by David Beckham–has been added as a co-defendant in the case, while Judge Reemberto Diaz has given the city until July 31 to respond to the challenge. Following his review of that response, Diaz may decide to schedule a full hearing of evidence, which could occur as early as August 1. More from the Miami Herald:

Once Diaz reviews the city’s reply, he could choose to schedule a full hearing of evidence for Wednesday, Aug. 1.

On Wednesday afternoon the Beckham group, known formally as Miami Freedom Park LLC, was added as a co-defendant. The group filed a motion to intervene early Wednesday afternoon, which the judge granted less than an hour later.

The motion states the Beckham group “must intervene to defend against the allegations made against it,” and attacks Muir’s complaint as “ambiguous.” The lawsuit, the motion adds, could interfere with the group’s “lawful right to pursue a lease agreement with the City and the City’s lawful right to pose a charter amendment to the voters.”

Muir contends the city has failed to follow its own charter by not opening up the project to a competitive bidding process, a similar argument to the one made by Commissioner Manolo Reyes when the commission voted.

Along with Beckham, the Miami MLS group features a contingent that includes prominent local businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas, American Idol founder Simon Fuller, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. The group is zeroing in on the Melreese site, located near Miami International Airport, so that it has a large enough location to construct a new stadium that is attached to a larger development project. The proposal, dubbed Miami Freedom Park, features a new 25,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, along with surrounding development that includes hotels, retail, offices, and other features on 73 acres, plus 58 acres of park space on the remainder of the 131-acre site. The MLS group would enter into a lease of up to 99 years.

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.

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