We end 2018 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #10: A new Beckham group stadium plan emerges in Miami.
When David Beckham signed with L.A. Galaxy and MLS in 2007, he made an immediate impact on the league. These days that contract is still impacting the league—but the impact is being felt in South Florida, as Beckham and his investors have turned the corner on a new-stadium project.
Within that contract came an option to purchase a membership at a reduced rate, an option Beckham and his investors are exercising in order to bring MLS back to South Florida. That MLS isn’t in Miami seems to be a tremendous business oversight, and a ripe opportunity for Beckham.
But the road to bringing MLS to Miami has been a multi-year epic full of failed plans, thwarted ambitions and plenty of roadblocks, as Beckham and his investors have seen several proposed sites fall through. The team now has a name—Inter Miami FC—and logo. Considering any Beckham plan has featured plenty of private investment, both for the stadium and surrounding development, it’s somewhat surprising how many stadium proposals were rejected in Miami.
Beckham and crew did finally settle on a site that will work as the team preps for a 2020 launch. The new site at city-owned Melreese Country Club, located near Miami International Airport, came about after prominent local businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas (who had made an earlier run for MLB’s Miami Marlins) joined American Idol founder Simon Fuller, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure in the ownership group. Bringing in local businesspeople who knew the market and how to navigate the local politics worked, as Miami voters approved a November referendum to allow local elected officials to negotiate the development of the golf course for a stadium and adjoining entertainment district.
The proposal for a new Inter Miami FC facility, 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.
This still isn’t a final deal, as the lease terms needs to be worked out, and the team needs to find a one-year home, as a new stadium isn’t expected to open until 2021. But with voter approval, the Beckham group is ending 2018 on far better terms than at the beginning of the year.