As Election Day approaches, one of the most intriguing soccer-related ballot initiatives is in Miami, where a group is lobbying to move its proposed MLS stadium plan forward.
The Miami MLS expansion club–dubbed Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami–is backed by a group that is headlined by David Beckham. Along with Beckham, the group 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–located near Miami International Airport.
As part of the Miami Freedom Park plan, the group would build a 25,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, along with surrounding development that includes hotels, retail, offices, and other features on roughly 73 acres, plus 58 acres of park space on the remainder of the 131-acre site. The group would enter into a 99-year lease on the 73 acres, and pay $20 million to construct the park/green space.
If most voters say “yes,” the Miami MLS stadium referendum will merely move the project forward, not officially authorize it. Technically, the vote is over whether to allow the MLS group to bypass a traditional competitive-bidding process and negotiate the terms of a final agreement with the City of Miami. Even if the referendum passes, the city and MLS group would still have to negotiate many terms of the deal, with an agreement requiring approval from at least four of Miami’s five commissioners to be finalized. More from the Miami Herald:
Voters are being asked if the city should allow Beckham and his partners to skip the usual competitive bidding process and negotiate a 99-year lease for about 73 acres of Melreese golf course.
Some of the numbers being thrown around — a 1 percent capital transaction fee, $35 million to clean up toxic waste — are not explained in the ballot measure. Those are details that city officials will deal with if voters authorize them to negotiate with the Beckham ownership team. The numbers could change; they are only a starting point for the negotiations.
The question for voters is whether to waive the city law that governs private use of public land. That law says that if a private entity wants to lease city-owned land, the city must solicit competitive bids in order to get the best deal for the taxpayers.
Beckham and his partners, known formally as Miami Freedom Park LLC, essentially have submitted an unsolicited bid to use the Melreese land for profitable purposes — for a privately financed $1 billion retail, office, hotel and stadium complex, of which the stadium is only a small part — and to pay a minimum of $3.6 million in annual rent for use of the land. The property would include about 1 million square feet of office, retail and commercial space, a minimum of 750 hotel rooms and a 58-acre public park. On-site employees would be paid a living wage.
The prospect of a Beckham-backed Miami MLS expansion squad had been in discussions for years before MLS announced plans for the club in January. One of the pressing questions surrounding the club has been the stadium, as several sites were linked to the group before it zeroed in on a nine-acre site in the city’s Overtown neighborhood. However, the group has shifted its focus from Overtown to the larger Melreese site that would allow it to build the stadium as part of a larger development plan.
Rendering courtesy Arquitectonica.
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