It’s Decision Day for Two MLS Stadium Projects

San Diego Aztec stadium soccer

It’s decision day for two MLS stadium projects, as voters will be asked to approve a plan for a new David Beckham-backed project in Miami and plot a course for a potential MLS/college football facility in San Diego.

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 on that project here.

As first unveiled in 2017, SoccerCity is a proposal from FS Investors to redevelop the SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm Stadium) site in Mission Valley and factors into San Diego’s MLS expansion bid. It calls for a stadium that would be constructed for an MLS club, along with surrounding development. FS Investors would enter into a 99-year lease with the city for 233 acres at the stadium site, plus 20 acres at the Chargers’ former training facility in Murphy Canyon.

In the period since it was unveiled, SoccerCity has had a few twists and turns. Backers sought to get it on the ballot as part of a special election last year, only for city officials to hold off on a referendum until 2018. Furthermore, a plan to work in partnership with San Diego State University–whose football program plays at SDCCU Stadium–did not come to fruition after the two sides failed to come to an agreement.

That led to the Friends of SDSU group presenting its own plan for the site, SDSU West. It calls for development that includes a new outpost for SDSU, with the stadium in its plan designed to accommodate SDSU football and professional soccer. In addition, the stadium would be capable of expanding from 35,000 seats to 55,000 seats in the event that it becomes home to an NFL franchise.

In a few respects, the proposals are very similar. Both target the same site for a new stadium/mixed-use development concept, propose constructing a new river park, and account for the NFL’s potential return to the city (SoccerCity sets aside 16 acres, for a period of five years, that could be used for a new football stadium). More on the two projects here; more on the Friends of SDSU proposal here.

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August Publications