It looks like Inter Miami will be forced to turn to Plan C for a temporary home in 2020, as neither Marlins Park nor Hard Rock Stadium may be feasible.
The Marlins don’t feel their facility works for David Beckham’s Major League Soccer team because the baseball season overlaps with MLS, which plays March through October. Hard Rock Stadium officials declined comment, but word is they also have serious reservations about housing Inter Miami because of spring conflicts with the Miami Open and fall conflicts with the Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes.
“We’ve had some conversations with MLS Miami and Jorge Mas and his team,” said Marlins Director of Operations Chip Bowers. “Very positive. Been very diligent. Both sides, to each party’s credit, has been really focused on making sure this is the right operational fit. I think the reality is, we’ve both realized, it probably isn’t.”
Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas said: “Frankly, we have a preferred site. We’re going to be making an announcement on that late February, early March, which I think will be great for our fans, for our team and our sponsors. We don’t feel at this time that Marlins Park is the ideal fit for us.”
There is a chance Inter Miami will play a few games at Hard Rock, but it is unlikely it will be the official temporary home. Team management has had discussions with FIU about Riccardo Silva Stadium, which housed Miami FC, but a source with knowledge of those talks said it is not an ideal site because of the artificial turf. Mas hinted that there is another solution in the works, but wouldn’t offer any details.
Bowers said the concurrent MLS and MLB seasons was a major concern.
“I think there’s some challenges having a 17-, 18-game soccer schedule simultaneous to a baseball schedule that falls on the exact same calendar,” he said. “The field would really take a beating. There’s a lot of operational issues that go along with it that would make it really difficult for us to realize.”
The only baseball stadium used for MLS is Yankee Stadium, which for four years has been the home of New York City FC while the club seeks a permanent stadium site. The Yankees are investors in the soccer team, so they have incentive to make the deal work; but the sight lines are not ideal and the conversion from baseball to soccer and back is an expensive, three-day process.
“There’s only one other facility that has done it, and that’s Yankee Stadium with New York FC. The difference there is there’s an equity piece with the Yankees and that particular team,” Bowers said. “There’s a million-dollar-a-game commitment by the team to the Yankees to overcome some of those operational challenges, none of which we think is really in the cards here given the conversations we’ve had with MLS Miami.”
Mas said he is “very excited” about his team’s proposal to develop the publicly-owned Lockhart Stadium grounds in Fort Lauderdale as a state-of-the-art training site that would double as a youth development academy. “We’re going to build a new stadium there,” he said. “It’s not a refurbishment of Lockhart. It will be a new stadium for a (second-tier) USL team and a soccer-centric academy. We’ll be able to host tournaments and other games there.”
Another Miami-based soccer group, OnSide Entertainment, is also interested in the site, and has a plan that includes renovating the stadium and creating a sports entertainment complex. The city is accepting bids for the next few weeks before making its decision. OnSide, led by John P. Reynal, presented an international friendly last January between South American teams River Plate and Independiente Santa Fe at Central Broward Regional Stadium.
Miami Herald sports writer Jordan McPherson contributed to this story.