Miami commissioners agree to send soccer stadium plan to voters

Voters will get their say in November

MIAMI – Miami commissioners agreed Wednesday to allow voters to decide whether to authorize the city to negotiate the sale of the Melreese Country Club golf course to soccer star David Beckham and Miami businessman Jorge Mas for the development of Miami Freedom Park.

The new development would be home to Beckham's Major League Soccer team in Miami, as well as the site of offices and an entertainment complex.

"I'm happy. I'm satisfied," Mas said. "I think this has been a very good exercise over the last week of showing the community the possibility."

Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon, Vice Chairman Ken Russell and District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo voted in favor of holding a referendum. District 1 Commissioner Wifredo "Willy" Gort and District 4 Commissioner Manolo Reyes voted against it.

The issues with the speed and transparency of the process remain, but Beckham's team upped the ante, even until the wee hours Wednesday morning.

"The demands I had -- I never thought they would meet them, because they are significant," Russell said. 

The team said "yes" to more money and more guarantees in exchange for a no-bid deal to build the billion-dollar stadium and entertainment complex at the Melreese Country Club. 

"They need to go to the neighborhood, go to the people, get the input from them. Let them participate (and) become part-owner of the project," Gort said.

If voters approve the measure in November, the negotiated agreement would require final Commission approval by a four-fifths affirmative vote.

The announcement comes after a lawsuit was filed against the city, claiming that it broke its charter when it entered into a no-bid deal to put an MLS stadium on city-owned property.  

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of resident William Muir.

Mayor Francis Suarez, City Manager Emilio Gonzalez, City Attorney Victoria Mendez and five city commissioners are also listed as the defendants.

"The public has a clear and certain legal right to public notice and a prior opportunity to compete for the lease or sale of any real property or interest owned by the city," the lawsuit claims.

Suarez didn't appear to be too worried about the lawsuit Wednesday.

"Pretty much, every single deal that we do in City Hall is the subject of a lawsuit," he said. 

About the Authors: