As Vote Looms, Former City Manager Criticizes Inter Miami Stadium Deal

InterMiami wants to turn the Melreese Public Golf Course into more than a soccer stadium

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Will they vote or kick the can down the road? The Miami City Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on the Miami Freedom Park issue, but there’s a strong possibility the commissioners will try to alter the deal with Inter Miami CF to their liking, and hold off on approving it until they get what they want from the Major League Soccer club.

Inter Miami wants to turn the Melreese Public Golf Course into more than a soccer stadium. The project includes a hotel, office space, shopping, plus a 58-acre public park. Managing owner and CEO Jorge Mas told NBC 6 on Monday those other components are needed to make the project worthwhile to the city and to the club, which is footing the entire bill without using taxpayer funds.

“So when you look at the economic benefits that you can derive from a project and build a stadium and make it a destination site, that’s a win-win and I think that’s a model of how stadiums should be built in the United States,” Mas said.

“Why do you think the club is willing to pay all that? Do you think Beckham and the Mas family, and by the way I got nothing against the Mas family, but do you think they’re doing this out of the goodness of their heart or is this a business transaction?” said Daniel Alfonso, a former Miami City Manager.

Alfonso left the city in 2017, at a time when he was involved with negotiating with the Beckham group on potential stadium sites. Alfonso does not like one major aspect of the current plan: the 99-year lease to Inter Miami, granted without competitive bidding.

“Well my biggest issue with this deal is there’s no way to prove that the city residents are getting the highest and best possible value for these 80 acres or 70-plus acres of land that really are next to an international airport, and next to major highways, there’s tremendous value in there, and I understand there’s contamination of the land, there’s other issues, but without a competitive process, how do we know we got the best value?" Alfonso said.

“Well the referendum talked about the development,” Mas said. “It talked about the stadium, it talked about a million square feet, it talked about 750 hotel rooms, so the voters knew what they were approving for us to move forward with.”

In 2018, Miami voters gave the city approval to negotiate a no-bid deal with Inter Miami for what’s called the Miami Freedom Park project.

“It gets pitched as hey, a soccer stadium, would you like soccer? Yeah, I love soccer, but did everybody really understand that there would be another 50, 60 acres of land to make this work, to give it away?” Alfonso said.

The club has agreed to reappraise the land so it says the city will get fair market value. If the deal is approved, Inter Miami will also pay for the environmental cleanup of the site, along with about $40 million in property taxes annually, about $10 million in lease payments every year, and $20 million to develop the 58-acre park at the site.

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