If it feels like you've already spent a full college education watching David Beckham and his partners flail around for a place to build a soccer stadium, you are not hallucinating. Miami is now living through Year Five of Beck's never-ending Major League Soccer drama.
This season promises a new location, new political plotting, and the ever-more-likely prospect of a really bad name for the franchise. Beck's latest partner, construction magnate Jorge Mas, finally revealed some details about their latest plan last night. Here's the low-down on the project before a city commission vote later this week.
What exactly is Beckham pitching this time?
That's a great question, which Mas and Beckham's ownership group worked really hard to avoid answering from reporters until now. Even though they pitched city commissioners last month on the no-bid project, they refused to give details to reporters and carefully left nothing at City Hall so that public records requests were for naught.
Last night, Mas finally Tweeted out some specifics. The long-and-short of the plan: Beckham's group wants permission to redevelop the city-owned Melreese Golf Course just east of Miami International Airport into a huge soccer and technology complex.
The $1 billion project would include a 25,000-seat stadium, 600,000 square feet of space for restaurants and bars, 400,000 square feet of office space, thousands of parking spaces, more than 700 hotel rooms, and 110 acres of green space.
Is there a hype video?
Does the team have a name yet?
Not officially, but Mas has been dropping some pretty heavy hints. The Herald noted earlier this year that the ownership group had trademarked the name Miami Freedom, and Mas revealed last night that he's calling the new Melreese site "Miami Freedom Park." And yes, Miami Freedom is a great team name if you're planning to root for a mid-'90s Arena Football squad with hilarious teal uniforms.
Wait, what happened to the Overtown Stadium?
Last we heard from Beckham, MLS was throwing a giant party at the Adrienne Arsht Center to "officially" give Miami a franchise. At that point, Becks was still committed to building a shiny new stadium right in the middle of Overtown, and his partners had spent millions acquiring land near the river to make it happen.
But then Jorge Mas and his brother, Jose, joined the ownership group and basically said, "Nah." It didn't help that wealthy Miami activist Bruce Matheson had an ongoing lawsuit against the project and that local sentiments in Overtown ranged from skeptical to "Get the hell outta here."
So how many damn sites has Beckham tried to build a stadium on now?
The Melreese project is the fifth seriously considered site. Beckham previously tried the Port of Miami (killed by cruise ship interests), a waterfront plot in Museum Park (no-go with commissioners), a Little Havana plot near Marlins Park (murdered by Miami's hatred for Marlins Park), and Overtown. On to Melreese!
OK, so what would the city get out of letting Beckham take over its golf course?
Rent, for one thing. Beckham's group will propose paying $4 million to $5 million annually in rent to Miami, the Herald reports, as well as county taxes on the 73-acre complex, a sum that could reach $44 million annually.
Is there opposition to the Melreese site?
You betcha! The golf community, as you might expect, is pretty salty about the idea of paving over the only city-owned course in Miami to let a bunch of dudes with European haircuts run around with a soccer ball. Commissioner Willy Gort, whose district includes Melreese, says he's against the plan and cites youth golf camps the city runs at the course.
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Also, as Al Crespo noted this morning, expect plenty of pushback at the idea of a private company getting city land to run their business on with a no-bid deal. If the Mas plan comes to fruition, those hundreds of thousands of square feet of office and retail space could be a gigantic cash cow for the developers — all on taxpayer-owned land.
Sounds like the city commission vote this week could be a real circus.
That's putting it mildly. On Thursday, the commission will consider a massive no-bid project with huge implications for the city with only a week of public debate beforehand. And to top it off, supporters are planning a big tailgate outside on Dinner Key to bring
Will voters get a say in this?
Yep. If the commission is on board on Thursday, they could put the plan on the November ballot for voters to have a say.