Five years ago, David Beckham said he wanted to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami. Last week he expected to cross a major item off his to-do list – acquiring land for a brand new stadium.
Instead, after days of heated discussion and debate – including “your mama” jokes – Miami commissioners delayed the vote until 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
Die-hard soccer fans just want an MLS team after years of false starts and even showed up for a big hype party before the vote. Meanwhile Mayor Francis Suarez, who’s been a big proponent of the plan, wants some progress on the deal ASAP.
Here’s where it all stands.
CATCH ME UP REAL QUICK. Five years ago David Beckham and a group of investors began pitching a Major League Soccer team in Miami. MLS officially approved a team in January. They’ve also pitched multiple locations for a stadium over the years including a site in Overtown (his group still owns that property, but it doesn’t work for what they have planned). The latest choice is the city-owned Melreese Country Club, near the airport.
The owners hope to start playing in 2020 and to have their stadium built by 2021.
The latest stadium plan includes public soccer fields, a park, a hotel, retail and office space, and the stadium itself.
SO WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH MELREESE? The tricky thing about Melreese is that it’s city owned, and when a private company wants to develop city property, there has to be a bidding process so private entities can pitch their own ideas for how to use it. The Beckham group wants the city to skip that step, let them buy the property, and then build the stadium.
That’s what the city is deciding on next week – whether to put a waiver of the competitive bidding requirement on the November ballot.
WHY IS THIS SO CONTROVERSIAL?
Depends on who you ask.
- Concerned residents and commissioners: They feel like there hasn’t been enough information, nor has it been released with enough time for the public to properly consider it. Details are fuzzy on things like job creation and they say a potential $44 million in tax revenue for the city wasn’t accurately calculated. The deal has even drawn opposition from mega developer Jorge Perez of the Related Group.
- Environmentalists: The site sits on a toxic waste deposit, and they worry that a major development could release some of those toxins. The Beckham group didn’t have many specifics last week on what it would cost to clean up the toxic soil. It’s usually a really costly and time-consuming process.
- Golf enthusiasts and members of the First Tee youth golf group who play at Melreese: They say they didn’t get enough info and they don’t want to play on a smaller course or have to go find a new one.
WHY DOES EVERYONE KEEP BRINGING UP MARLINS PARK? Because it was the last time Miami officials decided on a big new stadium project. City of Miami and Miami-Dade commissioners approved a deal that used public funds to build the new stadium, and promises of development around the stadium and new jobs haven’t quite come through. Beckham’s group is planning to fully finance the construction, so it’s not really the same deal.
WHAT’S NEXT? Commissioners will meet for a special session on Wednesday morning to decide whether to change the city charter and whether to send that change to voters in November.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD: Because the item was deferred on Thursday, the discussion will pick up where it left off, after the public comment period. If you’ve got thoughts, we recommend sharing them with your commissioner or tagging them on social media.
IF THEY VOTE ‘YES’… Voters will still have to approve the no-bid deal on the November ballot. If voters say yes, then at least four of the city commissioners will have to approve a lease for the stadium project.
IF THEY VOTE ‘NO’… Beckham’s group will have until Aug. 7 to change the commission’s mind and get it on the ballot.