The Real Deal Miami

Here’s everything you need to know about David Beckham’s latest MLS stadium and mega complex proposal

The proposed $1 billion development will go to voters Nov. 4
By Francisco Alvarado | July 20, 2018 03:30PM

David Beckham and Miami Freedom Park (Credit: Bob Bekian via Flickr)

For David Beckham, landing a stadium site for his Miami professional franchise has proven just as elusive as winning a World Cup for England.

Since his group Miami Beckham United launched its bid to field a Major League Soccer team four years ago, the international futbol star has cycled through four possible locations with each one falling through, including Beckham’s preferred site at PortMiami that was torpedoed by the cruise line industry.

In late 2015, it appeared Beckham United had finally settled on a 9-acre site in Overtown that included the purchase of land owned by Miami-Dade County. However, the deal hasn’t been finalized due to ongoing litigation by wealthy preservation activist Bruce Matheson, who sued the county for allegedly violating state law when it agreed to sell Beckham the land without first getting competitive bids.

Enter Jorge Mas and Jose Mas, the chairman and CEO, respectively, of Mastec, a publicly-traded engineering and construction firm based in Coral Gables. In December, the brothers became Beckham’s new partners alongside Masayoshi Son, the chairman of Sprint Corp. and CEO of SoftBank as Beckham’s original majority partner Todd Boehly bowed out. Boehly, chairman and CEO of Eldridge Industries and a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Sparks, couldn’t come to terms with MLS and the league’s board wanted Beckham United to recruit more local owners, according to media reports. Marcelo Claure, Sprint’s CEO and another original partner, is still part of Beckham United.

Since then, Jorge Mas — who is not enthusiastic about the Overtown site — took the lead in the stadium search. The prominent Miami businessman, with the support of Miami Mayor Francis Saurez, is championing a no-bid proposal to build a massive commercial development with the stadium as the centerpiece on a site near Miami International Airport that is currently home to Melreese Country Club and an adjoining park complex.

On Wednesday, the Miami City Commission voted 3-2 to allow a referendum on the November ballot asking Miami residents to approve or reject Beckham United’s latest stadium pitch. 

The Real Deal has broken down the important aspects of the project:

1. What is Miami Beckham United proposing to build?

A $1 billion commercial project called Miami Freedom Park that would include a 28,000-seat state-of-the-art stadium for Miami Beckham United’s soccer franchise, 380,000 square feet for retail and restaurants, 1 million square feet of technology-related office space, 120,000 square feet for entertainment uses, 20,000 square feet of conference space, about 500 hotel rooms, and a parking facility with a green roof that will be utilized for public soccer fields.

2. Where would Miami Freedom Park be located?

On about 73 acres of city-owned land at 1400 Northwest 37th Avenue that Miami currently leases to Delucca Enterprises, which operates the Melreese Country Club and the adjoining 18-hole golf course. The complex also includes tennis courts and a children’s water park. Should voters approve Miami Freedom Park and the city reaches an agreement with Miami Beckham United, the country club complex would be torn down. Beckham United would also build a public park.

3. What would be the terms of the lease between Miami Beckham United and the city of Miami?

Beckham United is offering to pay an annual rent of $3.6 million or fair market value as determined by two independent appraisals; $20 million to fund the park’s construction paid in annual installments of $666,667 for 30 years; $5 million for the city’s Miami Riverwalk and Baywalk projects; and a living minimum wage for the entire complex’s employees set at $11 an hour for the first year of operation but to grow incrementally until reaching $15 an hour in the fourth year.

4. Are there any environmental clean-up costs and who is paying for it?

There is a massive layer of toxic incinerator ash underneath the Melreese golf course that will have to be removed before any new development can take place. For decades, the city buried tons of ash contaminated with barium, lead arsenic and other deadly compounds underneath city parks. In recent years, the city and the county have undertaken efforts to remove the toxic materials. It cost the city $10 million to remove 86,000 tons of toxic soil at Grapeland Park, which is directly adjacent to Melreese. During the special city commission meeting on Wednesday, Jorge Mas said he estimates the clean-up will cost around $35 million and that Beckham United will pay for it. However, the real tab won’t be known until the group gets access to the Melreese site. Mas said if the price tag is higher than $35 million, Beckham United would seek state and federal funding, but it will not ask the city for a dime.

5. What does the opposition say about Miami Freedom Park?

Jorge Mas and Beckham have faced an onslaught of criticism in recent weeks for rushing the city commission to place their proposal on the November 4 ballot. Opponents claim that the public, as well as the commissioners, did not have enough time to vet the terms of the deal and that details were withheld from public scrutiny until the last possible moment. For instance, the proposed term sheet was released by city officials at 2 a.m. on Wednesday, eight hours before the start of the special city commission meeting. Miami lawyer Douglas Muir sued the city to stop the referendum by alleging Miami officials violated the city charter by authorizing a no-bid deal without competitive bidding.

Developer Jorge Pérez, who compared Beckham’s latest stadium play to the Miami Marlins stadium scandal, wrote a letter to city commissioners arguing Miami could fetch around $10 million a year in rent, a figure echoed by Michael Fay, managing director and principal of Avision Young’s Miami office. Fay wants to set up a competitive bidding process for the Melreese site in order to “drive the highest value and terms for the city.”