Miami-Dade County

Here is what today’s vote on Beckham’s soccer stadium plan means

David Beckham speaks at an event in January announcing that Major League Soccer is bringing an expansion team to Miami. The stadium site in Overtown was never mentioned during that ceremony. Weeks later, the Beckham partnership began pursuing a new stadium site at Miami's Melreese golf course.
David Beckham speaks at an event in January announcing that Major League Soccer is bringing an expansion team to Miami. The stadium site in Overtown was never mentioned during that ceremony. Weeks later, the Beckham partnership began pursuing a new stadium site at Miami's Melreese golf course. AP

Miami commissioners will not be voting on a final plan for a Major League Soccer stadium complex on Melreese golf course.

It might be easy to think that's what is happening at Miami City Hall on Thursday, given the buzz around David Beckham's plans for creating a soccer complex and his anticipated appearance to pitch that vision — and the public debate it has sparked.

But what commissioners are actually considering is whether they want to ask Miami voters if the city should change its rules for competitive bidding on private use of public land.

In other words, the commission could on Thursday vote to hold a referendum in November when voters could decide if they want to change Miami's laws so the city administration could negotiate a deal for Beckham's group to lease more than half of Melreese Country Club, near Miami International Airport, for a sprawling soccer, office, shopping and entertainment complex.

Normally, the city would have to hold a public bid based on Beckham's proposal, allowing other entities to propose similar projects. City officials would need voters' permission to circumvent that requirement in order to negotiate a no-bid deal with Beckham.

Commissioners will vote on two resolutions related to this: one that would authorize the city attorney to prepare an amendment to the city's charter — basically the city's constitution — and a second resolution that would send that amendment to the voters. Because the amendment is already written and ready to be considered Thursday, commissioners could vote on both items back-to-back.

Before they consider the resolutions, commissioners will hear a presentation from Beckham and his partner Jorge Mas, the MasTec executive who is the local partner in the ownership group of Miami's future MLS franchise. The public will also be allowed to comment on the matter.

Although the City Commission meeting begins at 9 a.m. with other city business, the items related to soccer and Melreese are scheduled to occur at 2 p.m., including the public comment.

melreese first rendering.jpg
The proposed “Miami Freedom Park” that would house a Major League Soccer stadium and a large new office and retail complex. David Beckham and partners, who include Jorge and Jose Mas, want to develop the project on Miami’s Melreese golf course. Miami Freedom LLC

Beckham and Mas have offered a framework for what they want to do at Melreese, which forms the basis for a question that could be placed on the November ballot.

The language of the proposed referendum that commissioners will take up on Thursday reads:

Shall Miami’s Charter be amended to authorize the City to execute a lease with Miami Freedom Park, LLC for the development of approximately 73 acres at 1400 Northwest 37 Avenue, for a total 99 year term, including:

Soccer stadium, 500 total hotel rooms with conference center, retail and commercial technology complexes;

$20,000,000 tenant contribution paid over 30 years to develop a 58 acre public park with amenities; and

Minimum guaranteed rent of $3,577,365.00 annually?

According to public statements made by Mas this week, some portions of the language above could change when commissioners discuss it. For example, the ballot language states there will be 500 hotel rooms. That might have been part of the plan when the agenda for this meeting was published on July 1, but Mas says the plan has been updated to include 750 hotel rooms.

If the question is placed on the ballot and voters approve it in November, a final negotiated lease would still need commission approval before the project could move forward. That lease would require the approve of four of the five commissioners.

Even though elected officials will not cast a final vote on the project — proponents of the stadium are emphasizing that the matter should be settled by the voters in November — commissioners are still expected to vet a preliminary proposal before it reaches a ballot question.

As of Thursday, two commissioners had publicly stated they would vote no: Manolo Reyes and Willy Gort. No other commissioner has publicly shared his vote.

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