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Boca Juniors break ground on North Miami Beach soccer site

Gabriel Hernandez, 7, left, and Sean Bah, 8, right, received a scholarship to attend the Boca Juniors soccer school once it is completed.
Gabriel Hernandez, 7, left, and Sean Bah, 8, right, received a scholarship to attend the Boca Juniors soccer school once it is completed. Miami Herald Staff

Children and city council members kicked soccer balls and shoveled dirt as North Miami Beach broke ground on a new soccer training site last week.

The complex is coming to Mishcon Park, 16601 NE 15th Ave., after the plans were approved by the council in February. The soccer training and management of the facility will be handled by the Soccer Development Group and the internationally recognized Argentine soccer club Boca Juniors.

“This is the day when we bring world-class soccer to North Miami Beach,” Mayor George Vallejo said at Friday’s ceremony.

The group also awarded scholarships to two students — Sean Bah, 8, and Gabriel Hernandez, 7 — to attend the academy.

Sean’s mother, Kisha Taylor, said it’s a great opportunity for her son, who has been playing soccer since he was 4.

“We’re so happy that it’s in our neighborhood and he can attend and play,” Taylor said.

The group plans to award 20 scholarships for city residents and the same number of scholarships for summer camp students. The two groups of scholarships are valued at a total of $24,000.

Boca Juniors and SDG have also promised more than $2 million in improvements to the park in the first year of the agreement, and $50,000 in improvements to the city’s park facilities.

The agreement is initially for 10 years with two additional five-year automatic renewals.

Daniel Rotsztain, SDG’s president, said his group expects the facility to be open by August. With all of the false starts in bringing a major league soccer team to South Florida in recent years, he and his partners thought North Miami Beach could be a good place for Boca Juniors.

“It’s a perfect location because it’s too much for the other cities in the area like downtown Miami or Aventura,” Rotsztain said. “The most important thing is the vision of the mayor, the council and the city staff.”

The plans include building a site that will replace the soccer field with synthetic grass. The site will also include a pro shop, and the group will install new lighting and a security system.

City Manager Ana Garcia welcomed the improvements as not only a boon for the community’s soccer fans, but as an improvement to another open space in the city.

“They’re going to light up a park that’s normally dark at night,” Garcia said. “Not only are they here for their own mission, but they’re giving back to the community.”

The soccer park will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The field will be approved for use for multiple soccer-related training, events and games along with birthday parties and other events, pending the city manager’s approval.

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