The proposed site of Miami Freedom Park, which includes an MLS stadium, is running into environmental concerns, as a report found unsafe levels of arsenic contamination.
Set to begin MLS play in 2020, Inter Miami CF is an expansion club backed by an investment group that includes David Beckham. While Inter Miami CF is expected to play its initial seasons in Fort Lauderdale, its long-term facility concept is Miami Freedom Park–a proposal for a new stadium and surrounding development at the city-owned Melreese Country Club near Miami International Airport.
Concerns have been raised in the past about the potential for high levels of contamination at the site, as ash from a nearby incinerator was dumped there before it closed decades ago, and a new report details some issues at the property. Soil tests conducted by environmental firm EE&G–which was hired by the team–found arsenic contamination levels at twice the legal limit. In addition, illegal levels of barium and lead were detected, and contamination was found to be just near the surface at portions of the site.
Inter Miami CF, which will pay AECOM to conduct its own analysis of the site, has previously pledged to pay the cost of environmental cleanup should the project move forward, but just how high that price tag could rise remains unknown for now. More from the Miami Herald:
[Miami Mayor Francis] Suarez shared a significant finding from the consultant — that the golf course has levels of arsenic that exceed twice the regulatory limits.
“Basically, the site has significantly more contamination than what is commercially reasonable,” Suarez said, adding that the city has chosen another consulting firm, AECOM, to conduct its own analysis of the findings. The firm will be paid by Inter Miami….
A separate series of tests by the county Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) yielded similarly grimy results, showing high concentrations of lead in the soil at the site. DERM also tested for other substances including barium, arsenic and dioxin, but the Herald could not determine by press time if the concentrations of these contaminants exceeded permissible levels. The property once was a dumping site for incinerator ash.
It also wasn’t immediately clear whether the cost of fixing the problem would make the plans for a stadium and commercial complex unfeasible. Inter Miami officials have in the past estimated the cleanup would cost in the range of $35 million, a number repeatedly offered by the team’s local managing partner, MasTec chairman Jorge Mas. Monday night, Suarez said team officials have more recently estimated the cost could reach $50 million. The true number and its feasibility won’t be known until all parties consult with DERM to develop a cleanup plan.
Discussions over Miami Freedom Park are far from settled, as Inter Miami CF and Miami officials continue negotiations over the plan. In November, voters approved a referendum that allows the city to negotiate a 99-year lease for the project. The referendum did not finalize plans, however, as Inter Miami CF investors and Miami officials still have to work out the terms of a land lease and eventually have it approved by four of Miami’s five city commissioners–and it remains to be seen if the club can reach that threshold.
Inter Miami CF will launch next year, and is planning to play home matches at a venue being constructed at the former site of Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale until it can secure a permanent home in Miami.
Rendering via Intermiamicf.com.
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