The City Commission passed the MLS Amendment 3-2 to allow a no-bid lease deal to appear at the ballot box this November. Here are the details.
The City of Miami commission just OK’d a ballot measure, to ask its citizens whether or not to accept a no-bid lease of city-owned land for a soccer stadium and commercial real estate complex. Before we get into the details of the final deal it is important to remember the history of the search for a home for the new Miami MLS team.
Before the group amassed key members, political support, and local heavyweights, David Beckham scoured the sexy shores of Miami’s Biscayne Bay for an appropriate site. He proposed 2 sites walkable from the American Airlines Arena, both of which the city commission denied. The city then recommended a site attached to FIU and a site attached to BBVA Compass Arena, both of which the team ownership was uninterested in. A third Little Havana site adjacent to the Marlins Stadium required county approval and the acquisition of privately owned land. The group was not able to make this site happen. Finally, an Overtown site that was a little too small was purchased in a highly contested, no-bid sale from the city. After the Mas Brothers of Mastech joined the MLS ownership team, they began searching for an alternative site to fit a larger plan.
They found a large parcel of city-owned land in Melreese Golf Course, adjacent to Miami International Airport. While not as central as Beckham and MLS initially wanted, the new partners knew where the real value in the project would be: Real Estate. The ability to create an entertainment destination around the stadium was too good of an opportunity for a group of astute businessmen to pass up, and the Golf Course allowed for the room to create a “village.” However, they were running out of time, as the MLS charter, granting Miami a team, required them to begin construction by October 2019 and complete it by 2021. This timeline is unrealistic, but it allowed the team to add urgency to their matter and get the ballot initiative passed.
With a proposed 2 million sqft of retail/office and 750 hotel rooms in addition to the 25,000 seat soccer stadium, the plans have moved far beyond a simple soccer stadium. However, in order for the area to become a year-round destination that does not sit idle without games, these additions are required to make it a truly successful project. It also includes a large public park, amphitheater, and soccer fields as part of Beckham’s vision to create a culture of training great soccer talent locally.
The final ballot measure includes a minimum of $3.7 million in annual lease payments, $20 million in public improvement, and the stipulation that the ownership group will pay for the environmental cleanup of the site. Many have compared this deal to the Marlins Ballpark deal that led to the recalling of a mayor, and hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing public payments. This is not that deal. This is a slightly undervalued lease agreement in exchange for a site clean-up, a well-funded entertainment district, and a source of local pride around a sport rapidly gaining in national viewership. This is Miami, and this November the voters will decide if Miami’s future includes a Futbol Club.