What was billed as another do or die moment for David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium deal turned into another game delay.
At a special meeting Tuesday morning, Miami city commissioners voted to continue negotiations with Beckham’s partnership group to build Miami Freedom Park, a projected $1 billion commercial mixed-use project anchored by a 25,000-seat stadium for the Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami CF.
The international futbol star’s dreams of fielding a professional Miami soccer team has gone through a number of fits and starts since Beckham first tried to get his stadium built at PortMiami in 2014.
After four other sites were either rejected or abandoned, Miami voters in 2018 approved the city working out a deal with Beckham and his group, led by Jorge Mas, chairman of infrastructure firm MasTec, to redevelop the publicly owned Melreese golf course near Miami International Airport. Since then, commissioner Manolo Reyes and opponents, including wealthy civic activist Bruce Matheson, have sought to thwart the negotiations by alleging redevelopment of the golf course should have gone through a public competitive bidding process.
Reyes wanted to force a vote on the proposed agreement before Commissioner Willy Gort is steps down later this month due to term limits. His successor won’t fill Gort’s seat until after Nov. 19, the runoff election date between former state Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla and auto parts businessman and real estate investor Miguel Gabela.
But at Tuesday’s special meeting, a majority of city commissioners were reluctant to force a final showdown after hearing from private lawyers representing Miami that a deal was close to being completed except for a couple of key issues: the completion of three fair market value appraisals, and traffic and environmental studies of the land underneath the golf course.
Marc Sarnoff, a former commissioner and a current partner with the law firm Shutts and Bowen, which is representing the city, said nearly daily negotiations have been ongoing over the past month. “Our goal is to give you a lease that we think protects the citizens of Miami,” Sarnoff said. “We are close to getting you the appraisals. We think we can have them to you shortly.”
Mas told commissioners that the partnership, which also includes SoftBank Group International CEO Marcelo Claure, has done significant work on its environmental study regarding the cleanup of toxic materials underneath Melreese golf course. “I do believe the environmental remediation can be done in an amount that makes the project feasible,” Mas said. “It is under $40 million. The taxpayers of Maimi will bear no expense. We will be asking for zero dollars from the citizens.”
Mas also noted the Beckham group will be financing 70 percent of Miami Freedom Park’s development costs with equity and that over 100 community meetings have been held to inform the project’s neighbors and city residents about the complex, which will also include a public park and soccer fields, as well as office, retail and hotel buildings.
Matheson, who recently appealed the dismissal of a civil lawsuit he filed to stop the project, said voters were misled about the Miami Freedom Park proposal not requiring competitive bidding. “Eliminating competitive bidding without disclosing it to the public is misleading and unconstitutional,” Matheson said.
Inter Miami CF will initially play at the Fort Lauderdale Stadium and Training Complex currently under construction. If Miami city commissioners approve a lease agreement this year, Mas said the MLS franchise’s permanent home at Miami Freedom Park would be completed in 2022.