Miami Commissioners Demand October 24 Vote on Miami Freedom Park Deal

Miami Freedom Park Rendering

Miami commissioners Thursday demanded an October 24 vote on a Miami Freedom Park agreement, even though some city officials said such a decision would be premature.

MLS expansion squad Inter Miami CF has been pitching plans for Miami Freedom Park, a proposed redevelopment of the city-owned Melreese Country Club that would include a new soccer-specific stadium and surrounding development. The club received a boost last November, when Miami 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.

A proposed agreement has not come up for a vote thus far, but commissioners are looking to move toward a decision with an October 24 vote. The October 24 vote was championed during a meeting on Thursday by a commissioner who has been critical of the plan, and believe that supporters within city government have tried to drag out negotiations beyond November’s election in hopes of eventually putting the proposal before a more favorable commission. However, other city officials–including mayor Francis Suarez–believe that an October 24 vote is premature, contending that there is still considerable work to be done before an agreement would be ready for a vote.

In addition, a separate measure proposed for October 24 would allow commissioners to open most of the Melresse site up for bid to other potential suitors. Suarez, for his part, has pledged to veto any vote by the commission that is taken before he believes the deal is ready. More from the Miami Herald:

At Thursday’s commission meeting, the loudest opponent of the stadium plan, Commissioner Manolo Reyes, demanded the city staff bring back a contract for the second meeting of the month so the commission can vote it up or down. He overrode the reservations of City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and Mayor Francis Suarez, who said there is still more work to be done — including land appraisals — before a fully negotiated deal can be brought to a vote.

The demand was not completely unexpected — earlier this year, a majority of commissioners voted to pressure city administrators to bring a lease back for a vote by September. Reyes’ directive, though, surprisingly came at the end of a commission meeting where the Miami Freedom Park was not even listed on the agenda.

The rifts among City Hall’s most powerful men showed as Reyes angrily accused the administration of purposefully slow-walking the negotiation so that the deal has a better chance of passing. Another critic of the plan, Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort, is term-limited this year. The November municipal election will decide who will succeed him.

Earlier this year, Gort said he had not seen anything regarding the proposal that would convince him it was good for the city. Reyes, who has stated he’s an unwavering “no” on the item, suspects Suarez would rather count on the election of a commissioner who might support the deal. The contract will require at least four votes of the five-member commission.

Inter Miami CF is backed by a group that includes David Beckham, as well as Jorge and Jose Mas and other investors. It will begin play next spring at the stadium in Fort Lauderdale that is being constructed as part of its training academy, starting what is intended to be temporary stay for MLS matches until a new Miami home can be constructed.

Rendering courtesy Inter Miami CF.

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