Don Garber to Tour Potential Miami MLS Stadium Site

Miami Freedom Park MLS stadium

MLS commissioner Don Garber will tour a potential Miami MLS stadium site Friday, a visit that comes just after voters allowed the proposal to advance.  

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.

On Election Day, Miami voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that allows the project to move forward but does not officially authorize it. With passage of the referendum, the MLS group can effectively bypass a traditional competitive-bidding process and negotiate the terms of a final agreement with the City of Miami. The agreement would require approval from at least four of Miami’s five commissioners to be finalized.

Garber was a guess speaker at the SoccerEx conference at Miami’s Marlins Park on Thursday, and was set to tour the potential MLS stadium site with Jorge Mas on Friday morning. The new stadium at the Melreese site is not expected to open until at least 2021, if it is indeed approved, but Garber said the goal remains for the team to begin play in 2020 at a short-term venue. More from the Miami Herald:

Garber is meeting with Beckham’s co-owner Jorge Mas on Friday morning and taking a tour of the Melreese Golf Course stadium site, he told the Herald.

The team is scheduled to begin play in 2020, but the stadium and Freedom Park they plan to build on the Melreese site won’t be ready until 2021 at the earliest, so they need a short-term home. Options include Marlins Park, Hard Rock Stadium, FIU Stadium and FAU Stadium.

“Our goal is to launch in 2020, that hasn’t really changed,” Garber said. “We have a lot of work to do to finalize a temporary venue.

“The most important thing is from a technical standpoint is the field needs to be perfect, or as perfect as it can be in a temporary environment. It needs to have the proper support systems for players both from a locker room perspective and other elements that ensure our players will be safe and healthy. We need to ensure that we have the right schedule, and when you’re playing as a tenant in a stadium, scheduling gets very complicated.”

MLS competed with 23 teams in 2018, but that number will jump to 24 next season with the addition of FC Cincinnati. Nashville and Miami would represent clubs number 25 and 26 if they join in 2020. Nashville would also likely need a short-term home if it began play in 2020, as its new stadium at The Fairgrounds Nashville is not expected to be finished until 2021.

The Miami proposal, dubbed Miami Freedom Park, combines a stadium with surrounding development. It includes a new 25,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, along with adjacent 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.

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