Another Herons headache: Miami Freedom Park vote delayed yet again
By Ken Garner
Inter Miami didn't play last weekend, but still managed to lose when the city commission postponed (for the fourth time since January) a vote on its billion-dollar stadium/commercial project next to the airport.
Commissioners were expected to discuss the deal to lease property for Miami Freedom Park at a special meeting Friday, April 1 -- April Fool's Day -- but the item has been pushed back to a regular commission meeting April 28. Mayor Francis Suarez and Jorge Mas, managing owner of the Inter Miami ownership group that also includes Jorge's brother, Jose, and international soccer superstar David Beckham, have confidently predicted the deal's success, but continued delays suggest they may not have the votes.
The Mas brothers and Beckham want a 99-year lease for property on which the city's only public golf course sits. The team would build a $1-billion complex including a 25,000-seat soccer stadium for the Herons, a shopping center, office park, hotel and a 58-acre public park. Four of five commissioners must vote to approve the deal, and one has been a steadfast "no" since the project was unveiled.
Since voters approved a referendum asking permission for the city to negotiate a deal with Inter Miami's owners, the COVID-19 pandemic and the quickly changing economic landscape have led many residents -- and the city's major media -- to cool on the project's potential and worry that Miami Freedom Park asks too much of the city with too little in return. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County has asked for new studies of the project's possible impacts on nearby Miami International Airport.
Considering Beckham's Quixotic quest to find a Miami location for his Miami soccer team, supporters rightly should be concerned. The English footballing legend bought into MLS with a vision of creating a global-quality organization in one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities -- thus the name, "Club International de Futbol Miami." But instead of competing with English and European powerhouses for the world's best players, Inter Miami has struggled from the beginning.
The team finally began play in 2020 -- in a refurbished lower-division stadium in Fort Lauderdale, the former home of its failed predecessor, Miami Fusion. The arrangement was supposed to be for two years, when the Herons would move into their palatial new home. That hasn't worked out, and the Men in Pink started Season 3 at DRV PNK Stadium no closer to building their Miami home.
Making matters worse, despite some big-name signings that excited the fanbase, the Herons' on-field product can generously be described as "disappointing" and a salary scandal leading to strict MLS sanctions is embarrassing for an organization that claims aspirations of being among the world's best.
Losing the Miami Freedom Park bid would be yet another setback for Beckham's vision -- and the Mas brothers real estate ambitions. The site is the fifth that's been considered for an MLS-quality stadium, beginning with PortMiami in 2013. Beckham also inquired about properties near the Miami Heat's arena and Miami Marlins' ballpark, and even had acquired property in Overtown before the Jorge and Jose Mas joined the ownership group. Jorge Mas convinced Beckham the Overtown site wasn't big enough, eventually leading us to the ambitious megadeal the city continues to kick down the road.
Enough is enough. It's time for Beckham to take control of his project back from Jorge Mas and begin planning a soccer facility at Overtown. The Pink and Black need a win right now, on the field or off, and Miami Freedom Park is beginning to look like yet another major disappointment.
Miami Herald: Crucial vote for Beckham’s Inter Miami soccer stadium delayed again