After a huge rally, hours of public testimony and plenty of anticipation, the Miami City Commission decided to put off a decision on whether to ask city voters to approve a proposed Miami MLS stadium at Melreese Country Club, with more negotiations scheduled.
The Miami MLS expansion club 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. The stadium project calls for the MLS group to enter into a long-term lease to use the site for a development that will include a new 25,000-seat stadium, 600,000 square feet of entertainment/retail/ restaurant space, a “golf entertainment facility,” 400,000 square feet of office space, 750 hotel rooms and more, under the auspices of a Miami Freedom Park development. In addition, the group would fund 110 acres of green space through a $20 million contribution paid over 20 years.
The battle lines on the City Commission were drawn early, with two commissioners coming out against the proposal and two in favor. That left Commissioner Ken Russel as the key vote, and he was the center of attention at last night’s meeting. From the Miami Herald:
Just after the sun set Thursday, Commissioner Ken Russell held the power as he began his remarks. Russell, who was perceived as the swing vote on the matter, criticized the Beckham group, which had not conducted any outreach in the neighborhood immediately east of Melreese. Then he moved through individual provisions of the deal seeking verbal assurances from the Beckham group on issues from the replacement of lost park space to the question of who would pay for cleaning up contaminated soil.
Other sticking points for Russell included assurances that workers on the project would be paid a living wage and revenue sharing with the Beckham group. He also noted that commissioners had offered amendments to the proposed ballot language that needed to be rectified.
“We can continue to negotiate,” Russell said. “But I’m not ready tonight.”
There are all valid concerns, but not all of them are actually related to the potential referendum, which would come in the fall elections. The referendum merely authorizes 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.
So negotiations will continue up until the commission’s July 18 meeting. The proposal is under a deadline of sorts: the county election department will finalize the fall ballot language on August 7.
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