It didn’t take a retired celebrity soccer player to convince the North Miami Beach city council to approve construction of a world-class soccer training facility in their city.
While plans to negotiate a new major league soccer stadium have stalled for more than a year in Miami, in North Miami Beach the development of a premier soccer school and sports complex proposed by the Soccer Development Group (SDG) — with partners from Boca Juniors, one of the leading soccer teams in the world — was enthusiastically approved 6-0 at Tuesday’s council meeting. Councilman Frantz Pierre was absent.
The Boca Juniors club trains more than 11,000 kids worldwide using a methodology the club plans to duplicate in North Miami Beach. Plans are to build a state-of-the-art sports complex in the south field of Patricia Mishcon Park. Public development and training programs will be offered for children ages 5 to 12 and professional training for youths 12 to 19 years old. There will be sports scholarships with an annual value of $36,000 for local residents and students from all over the nation. A percentage of the revenues from the school, sport tournaments and camps will go to the city.
“Before you stands one of the most significant partnerships in the history of our great city. Our city is going to be turning 90 this year and this public private partnership (will be) a benefit to our families, our community, to our youth, to our revenue and certainly the infrastructure of our great Mishcon park,” City Manager Ana Garcia said.
For the 20-year lease contract, SDG will be solely responsible for all operating and maintenance costs and will contribute nearly $2,532,000 towards improvements and start-up capitalization during the first year of operations. Plans include construction of an athletic facility with locker rooms, training rooms, a pro shop, a concession area and replacement of a soccer field with synthetic grass, new lighting, a security system and management of the facility.
Councilmember Phyllis Smith made the motion to approve the resolution including changes that will be hashed out with the city attorney and managers before the final contract is signed. Smith also insisted that local residents be prioritized for jobs.
SDG will provide $50,000 in improvements to the park, including direct costs and other related fees for permits. After 12 months, there will be an annual base payment of $36,000 or 5.5% of gross revenue, whichever is greater. The project will be designed with help from Construkom USA, an architectural firm with experience in the development of sports sites in the US and Argentina.
Councilmember Beth Spiegel wanted assurances that no other sports activity would be diminished by the arrival of the soccer complex.
“I want to make it very clear on the record that we’ve been assured that this in no way interferes, hampers, changes, alters the Little League involvement and the existing programs for our city’s use,” Spiegel said.
Mayor Geoge Vallejo emphasized that the project would help, not hurt, any existing programs using the park.
“This is enhancing and bringing something extra to our city. It’s going to bring jobs for our residents. We have world-class football played here, we have world-class flag football played here and now we’ll have world-class football, meaning soccer, played here so that is really, really exciting and a tremendous opportunity for our city,” Vallejo said.
Javier Vazquez, attorney for SDG and a partner with Berger Singerman, reassured the council that SDG agreed to changes discussed in an earlier workshop and suggested the changes be read into the official record to be officially incorporated in the vote.
Some of those changes include giving the city council the authority to revoke the contract — not the city manager — and allow the council the ability to authorize additional uses on the premises that may not be related to the program.
The revised contract would prohibit any activity to ever function without insurance coverage for any reason and would give the city the right to remove the name of any previously selected sponsorship name deemed unworthy.
Contrary to their previous vote last September, council members voted to ban polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, by vendors for the facility for all food and beverages sold in the park. Polystyrene has long been associated with the careless discard of plastic containers and bags that pollute the waterways, harm wildlife and damages municipal waste infrastructure.
A clause that would allow the city to terminate the contract for “convenience without cause,” will be stricken and any additional police security for an event the city hosts or co-hosts will be at the expense of the city. Spiegel reminded the council that the use of the city logo should be at council’s discretion.
SDG plans to begin the permitting process in June and have try-outs for coaches and students in July. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for August, when the upcoming soccer season begins.
The next city council meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 3, at City Hall, 17011 NE 19th Ave.
Follow Patricia Sagastume on Twitter @patsagastume