David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium: Commissioner explains controversy

Miami Commissioners Ken Russell said Friday “the biggest controversy” with David Beckham’s dream of building a stadium for his Major League Soccer team at a public golf course was that there was no need for a competitive bidding process.

Late Thursday night, during a definitive public meeting at Miami City Hall, Beckham’s partner ― billionaire businessman Jorge Mas Santos — described the deal as costly for the investors, but not for the city’s taxpayers.

Mas said their vision for the International Links Melreese Country Club will cost them about $203 million over time. Miami commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of a no-bid 99-year lease of 73 acres of public land at $4.3 million annually.

“What people don’t realize is when we decided to bring Major League Soccer, there is only one player who has Major League Soccer, and if you are going to work with a single franchise, there are no other bids to entertain, so putting a comprehensive project together with them was controversial for some,” Russell said.

Commissioner Manolo Reyes was the dissenting vote. Commissioners Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Joe Carollo, Christine King, and Russell sided with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has long championed the Miami Freedom Park project.

“We wouldn’t do it unless we went to the voters,” Russell said.

On Nov. 6, 2018, about 60% of Miami voters approved a referendum authorizing the city to negotiate the 99-year lease with Miami Freedom Park LLC. The developers still need commissioners to approve the zoning to start the work at the golf course.

Aside from the 25,000-seat soccer stadium, the private investment in the public land also includes a new 58-acre public park and environmental remediation. There was evidence of arsenic and lead resulting from incinerator ash that was used as a filler.

Russell, who got involved in politics after a park in his Coconut Grove neighborhood required toxic waste cleanup, described the remediation plan as “incredibly sophisticated” during the meeting.

At first, the commissioners couldn’t agree on how to divide the $20 million included in the deal for the city government. Diaz de la Portilla said he should be the one to manage the funds because the project is in his district. After a heated argument and a break, Russell recommended that only half of the $20 million go to Diaz de la Portilla’s district.

Mas also told commissioners their long-term plan includes a professional women’s soccer team playing out of the InterMiami facility in Fort Lauderdale and soccer programs for both girls and boys.

Mas presented this graphic on his development costs

Billionaire Jorge Mas presented this graphic to commissioners on Thursday at Miami City Hall.

ARCHIVES

April 28 reports

11 p.m. report

Miami commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of David Beckham’s dream of building a soccer stadium in the city.

6 p.m. report

David Beckham’s dream of building a proper home for his Inter Miami is facing the gatekeepers of the public land that he and billionaire Jorge Mas have chosen.

5 p.m. report

David Beckham’s dream of building a proper home for his Inter Miami is facing the gatekeepers of the public land that he and billionaire Jorge Mas have chosen.

Noon report

David Beckham’s dream of having a soccer stadium in Miami faces the gatekeepers of the public land he and billionaire Jorge Mas have chosen.

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