After negotiating for more than two years, the city of Miami and Inter Miami CF, the Major League Soccer team owned by David Beckham and partners, have agreed on terms for a 99-year lease, helping to pave the way for the team to build a $1B stadium and complex on what is now a public park.
The deal now needs to pass the city commission to proceed.
David Beckham fielded questions from reporters after announcing his MLS expansion team in Miami.
The team wants to take over the 131-acre Melreese Golf Course and Country Club, the city’s only municipal golf course, and build a $1B complex called Miami Freedom Park. The project would include a 25,000-seat stadium, a parking garage with soccer fields on top, a 750-room hotel, offices and a retail complex. Fifty-eight acres would be preserved as a park.
According to the Miami Herald, which broke the news and obtained copies of 500 pages of agreements, the city would get minimum annual rent of $3.5M, plus 5% of proceeds over $8M for stadium naming rights. The team would have to play in its new stadium for at least 30 years and keep the word Miami in its name.
Beckham has had a difficult slog bringing a team to Miami since announcing plans to do so in 2014. Over the years, several potential stadium sites were considered but fell through, while partners came and went.
In 2018, Jorge Mas and José Mas — the chairman and CEO, respectively, of infrastructure construction firm MasTec — joined and re-energized the ownership group, and the team proposed taking over the Melreese site. Since then, a soccer team was fielded and began playing during the coronavirus pandemic at the 18,000-seat DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, which will remain the team’s training facility even if professional games move to Miami.
The proposed lease has been controversial. Some critics say that parks shouldn’t be taken over for private uses, and Miami taxpayers were famously burned in a deal to build the Miami Marlins stadium, which used $2.6B in public money. But Jorge Mas has emphasized the team would not seek city funding and that the site, if developed, would bring in millions in tax revenue. In a 2018 referendum, voters allowed the city to bypass a normally required bidding process and negotiate directly with the team.
A city commission vote could be scheduled in the next few weeks and needs four of five commission votes to pass. One commissioner has already vowed to oppose the project. The team would also face some hurdles over traffic, zoning changes and environmental remediation.
As for the team, Beckham and Mas in September bought out ownership stakes from SoftBank executives Marcelo Claure and Masayoshi Son, while Los Angeles-based Ares Management invested $150M through a fund.
As for the team itself, Inter Miami closed out the 2021 season in the bottom third of 28 MLS teams. It drew an average of 14,129 fans and even sold out a game in May. The 2022 season will kick off in February.