Four out of five. That’s the ratio InterMiami CF needs to build its Miami Freedom Park at the Melreese Golf Course, four yes votes on the Miami City Commission.
So far, only one commissioner has tipped his hand on how he’ll vote on the InterMiami CF stadium issue. Commissioner Manolo Reyes has opposed it from the start.
One big proponent of the deal, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, spoke to us Tuesday. I started by asking Suarez if the city can afford to give up 130 acres of green space to development.
“I think that’s a misperception because right now it’s a golf course, and it’s a golf course that only a very small segment of our city uses,” Suarez said.
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I told the mayor that some of the public sees it as a big real estate deal, which happens to include a soccer stadium.
“No the public is the one that gave us the authority to do it,” Suarez responded. “So no, I don’t see this as distasteful at all, I see this as a comprehensive restructuring of what the property is.”
If the plan is approved, InterMiami CF will build a soccer stadium, hotel, office space, and a shopping and restaurant area, and the club will pay the city $20 million to develop a 58-acre public park on the site. The team would get a 99-year, no-bid lease. I asked Suarez how is that good for the community.
“Well the beauty of that is that specific issue was approved by the owners of the property, who are the residents of the city of Miami, incorporated into the referenda is the ability to do a no-bid lease with the team,” Suarez responded. “This is gonna generate billions of dollars of revenue for the city, it’s a soccer complex which is privately financed so the city, unlike in the Marlins deal, is not pulling a penny of city dollars into it, we’re reappraising the property to deal with any issues anyone might have about the actual amount we’re getting in return.”
Proponents of the deal admit they’re hampered by the public’s memories of the Marlins Park deal, in which roughly $600 million in taxpayer funds paid to build the baseball stadium.
“So it could not be any more different than the Marlins deal where we got fleeced and it’s unfortunate that the very people that fleeced us in the Marlins deal are now trying to fleece us out of doing this deal,” Suarez said, referring to former Marlins president David Samson, who appears in a viral video criticizing the InterMiami CF proposal. “There’s no subsidy in this deal, the Marlins deal never went to the voters, this actually went to the voters and over 60% of the voters voted in favor of it.”
Voters in 2018 approved a charter amendment allowing the city to bypass bidding requirements for this project.
If the deal is approved, InterMiami CF estimates it will pay about $40 million a year in property taxes, plus $10 million a year on the lease payments. The Melreese Golf Course loses money every year.