When South Floridians think of bad stadium deals, fairly or unfairly, the Marlins Park deal comes to mind. Taxpayers shelled out about $600 million for the baseball stadium to be built on the Orange Bowl site, and they’re still on the hook for millions of dollars every year to cover the bonds which were used to finance the construction.
The face of the Miami Marlins in those days was team president David Samson, and he now stars in filmmaker Billy Corben’s viral takedown video of the Inter Miami CF proposal to build a soccer stadium on the city’s Melreese Golf Course, calling it “a billion dollar heist happening in broad daylight.”
The video starts with a Miami Vice-style montage. A narrator says, “Miami is known for sun, fun, and sex and Miami, you’re about to get (bleeped)!”
Except the word they use is not “bleeped.”
As the video rolls on, the narrator is revealed to be Samson.
“Don't bend over for Beckham, this is the biggest boondoggle in Miami history, the Melreese giveaway is so bad it would make the Marlins stadium deal look good,” Samson says. “Take it from me, someone who actually negotiated with your politicians.”
In an interview via Zoom on Wednesday, I asked Samson if he thinks the Inter Miami ownership is going to fleece the taxpayers more than he did with the Marlins.
“It’s a totally different structure of a deal, remember what the Marlins were looking for was a baseball stadium back then, what the owners of Inter Miami are looking for, it’s a real estate deal,” Samson said. “That should not be negotiated by commissioners or city attorneys who do not understand with whom they are negotiating or what they are negotiating because it will not end up well for the city.”
“But I would say that comparing Marlins Park to the Melfleece deal is to some extent like comparing apples to Orange Bowls, I think it is just as bad but in a lateral way, it is not the same bad,” Corben said during the same Zoom conference.
The Melreese deal would give InterMiami a 99-year lease at what Corben and Samson say is a criminally low rate.
“Samson’s right because the Marlins deal was bad but this deal is horrible,” said Miami City Commissioner Manolo Reyes, who has announced his opposition to the proposal.
Reyes says without competitive bidding, there’s no way to know how much the Melreese land, one of the biggest pieces of parkland in the city, is actually worth.
“They want you to think this is about a soccer stadium but it’s just another real estate hustle to pave paradise and build a hotel, office park and shopping mall,” Samson says in one part of the video.
“Jorge Mas and David Beckham, I’ve got nothing against them, their job is to negotiate the best possible deal as they can for their side, where my concern lies is who is representing us?“ Corben said.
Miami’s mayor, Francis Suarez, watched the video on my phone Wednesday and said it’s riddled with inaccuracies, said the city will absolutely reappraise the land before any final deal is struck, and Suarez pointed out that unlike the Marlins park deal, voters approved the concept of building a soccer stadium at the Melreese Golf Course and the city will make, not lose money from this proposal.
Inter Miami released a lengthy statement in response to what they say is a "campaign to disinform and confuse the public about the impact the Miami Freedom Park project will have on the City and its residents."
The team's statement said Miami Freedom Park is a 100% privately funded project and would contribute $6.3 billion in tax revenue to the City of Miami over the life of the lease.
During the first 30 years, Miami Freedom Park will generate over $11 billion in economic activity for the city, and would create 15,000 direct and indirect jobs, the team said.
"Miami Freedom Park went through the best type of bidding process, the voter process," the team's statement read. "The majority of the city's voters sent their commissioners a clear message to advance with this project; a 15,000 seat stadium, 750 hotel rooms, commercial and office space, community fields and the largest public park in the city generating jobs and tax revenue."
The city commission is scheduled to vote on the issue next Thursday.