Resolution Could Put Pressure on Miami Freedom Park Negotiations

Miami Freedom Park MLS stadium

On Thursday, Miami City Commissioners approved a resolution calling for a proposed Miami Freedom Park lease to be presented by mid-September, potentially putting pressure on the discussions. 

In November, Miami voters approved a referendum that allows the city to negotiate a 99-year lease for the redevelopment of the city-owned Melreese Country Club into a new development that includes an Inter Miami CF stadium. Inter Miami CF is an MLS expansion squad that begins play next year and is backed by a group headlined by David Beckham, who is joined in the effort by prominent local businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas, SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son, and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.

Discussions over preliminary lease terms for the project, dubbed Miami Freedom Park, are underway, but the proposal is far from assured to come to fruition at this stage. The city and Miami Freedom Park, LLC still have to negotiate a 99-year land lease for the site, an agreement that will require approval from four of Miami’s five city commissioners–a few of which are already against the idea.

An election that could change the makeup of the current slate of commissioners is scheduled for November, and officials want to consider an agreement before then. Under a resolution approved Thursday in a 4-1 vote, city administrators would have to present a potential lease from Miami Freedom Park negotiations by September 16. That vote seemingly puts extra pressure on the MLS group to hammer out a proposed agreement over the coming months. More from the Miami Herald:

On Thursday, four of five commissioners voted to force administrators to present them a lease by Sept. 16, before this year’s municipal election, which could shift the balance for or against the development. The resolution, opposed only by Commission Chairman Ken Russell, orders the administration to bring a proposed lease to the commission before some of the project’s biggest opponents are either term-limited out of office or possibly voted out.

“You know that I have an election in November, and I’m totally against this,” said Commissioner Manolo Reyes, the plan’s fiercest critic, who has pledged to vote against any lease.

Given the opposition from Reyes and Commissioner Wilfredo “Willy” Gort, whose district includes Melreese, the resolution might threaten the future of Miami Freedom Park. But the resolution does not outline what would happen if administrators do not bring a negotiated lease to commissioners by the deadline, or if a lease is voted down then. It appears the measure, sponsored by Reyes and Commissioner Joe Carollo, simply puts political pressure on the Beckham group, led locally by managing partner and MasTec chairman Jorge Mas, to come to terms with city administrators in the next several months.

Thursday’s resolution might also set the stage for the commission to place more restrictions and requirements on the lease negotiations. Sources in City Hall say the project’s opponents might bring more resolutions mandating timelines and terms in the lease, including a requirement that Inter Miami develop new parks elsewhere in the city to make up for the loss of the golf course. Each resolution could stymie progress toward a lease.

Inter Miami CF is in the midst of working on two facility projects, including Miami Freedom Park and a proposed training academy at the site of Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium. As was announced on Thursday, Inter Miami CF would play in a new stadium at the Fort Lauderdale academy for its first two seasons until a new Miami stadium opens. However, that proposal is not finalized at this point, as Fort Lauderdale officials have also been presented with another plan for the site. Fort Lauderdale officials are set to consider the proposals early next week.

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August Publications