What’s next for David Beckham’s MLS soccer stadium?

On Tuesday, voters allowed the Beckham-Mas group to move forward with its soccer stadium project at Melreese Country Club

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

Voters gave David Beckham and the Mas brothers the green light to move forward with their plans to bring a Major League Soccer stadium and an ambitious mixed-use project to Miami.

But what happens next?

The project known as Freedom Park could include a 25,000-square-foot soccer stadium as well as more than 1 million square feet of retail and office space and about 750 hotel rooms on a site that is now home to a public golf course. In total, the development is valued at $1 billion and will be built on 73 acres out of the 131-acre Melreese Country Club.

The next step would be negotiations on a 99-year lease. But talks with the group, led by Jorge and Jose Mas, Beckham, Marcelo Claure and Masayoshi Son, and city administrators are on hold until the city resolves an ethics complaint filed with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust last week by attorney David Winker, according to the Miami Herald. The complaint alleges the developers never registered as lobbyists before asking commissioners to place their proposal on the ballot.

It is unclear how long it will take the city to resolve the complaint or if other complaints will follow.

Once negotiations are complete, four out of five Miami commissioners will have to give final approval to the lease. Currently, the specific terms have not been decided, including exactly what the owners will pay for the development site.

The Mas and Beckham group previously said it would pay an annual rent of at least $3.6 million – or fair market value as determined by two independent appraisals – plus $20 million to fund the park’s construction, paid in annual installments of $666,667 for 30 years. The city ordered appraisals for the 131-acre site by CBRE and Joseph J. Blake.

One of the key issues that also still needs to be worked out will be the costs associated with the environmental remediation of the site, which include dealing with coal ash buried underneath the golf course.

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The Beckham-Mas group has previously said it would be responsible for paying up to $35 million for these costs. If the costs exceed $35 million, it is not clear who would be responsible for paying the rest.

Howard Nelson, who chairs Bilzin Sumberg’s environmental practice, said the costs could possibly be less than $35 million. He also said that from an environmental standpoint, putting a concrete stadium on the property makes the most sense.

As a point of comparison, it cost the city $10 million to remove 86,000 tons of toxic soil at Grapeland Park, which is directly adjacent to Melreese.

Another pressing issue could be costs and requirements to mitigate traffic.

John J. Fumero, an attorney with Naeson Yager, who was formerly general counsel of the South Florida Water Management District, said that developers are responsible to pay for some of the traffic costs associated with the project. This means they may be responsible for expanding access roads to accommodate traffic.

“The traffic implications can be enormous,” Fumero said.

So far, the Beckham and Mas Group has yet to make a traffic assessment available to the public. Traffic was a concern for neighbors, as the site is near Miami International Airport, where traffic is often congested.

If these environmental and traffic questions are resolved and the city commissioners approve the lease terms, the development group will then have to start the process of environmental remediation, redeveloping the golf course and building a stadium. Hopefully, all before the Inter Miami team is set to play in the summer of 2020.

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