CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The party and celebrations in Miami on Tuesday night were so festive and passionate that you could not have been blamed for thinking that David Beckham and Inter Miami FC had finally crossed the finish line in the quest to acquire land on which to build a soccer-specific stadium.
They did not. In fact, there remain a couple of political hurdles to overcome.
Inter Miami and its fans enjoyed quite a night on Tuesday, as approximately 60 percent of Miami voters supported the club’s plans to replace a city-owned golf course with a soccer stadium, park, and commercial complex. Locals had to back the plans in the polls in order for Inter Miami to be able to negotiate a lease for the land, but the MLS expansion franchise’s work is not done.
In order to officially acquire 78 acres next to Miami International Airport, Beckham’s club needs four out of five city commissioners to vote in favor of the team’s proposed deal. That was not the case as of Monday, as two of those commissioners, who in July had voted against putting Tuesday’s item on the ballot, reportedly remained unconvinced.
“I don’t think much has changed behind closed doors, per se,” said Miami mayor Francis Suarez on Tuesday night following the celebratory event at Douglas Plaza. “I think what’s changed is the vote of the people and that’s the most important thing. This is the people’s property. It’s not my property, it’s not a commissioner’s property.
“It’s the property of the people, and when they vote in such a large margin to re-envision this property, we as elected officials have an obligation. We have an obligation to follow their lead.”
Whether that ultimately is the case remains to be seen, but Inter Miami, which is set to begin play in MLS in a temporary venue in 2020, is extremely confident that it will. Co-majority owner Jorge Mas had previously said that there was no back-up plan in place should things not go Inter Miami’s way, and he only doubled down on that stance on Tuesday.
“We don’t need a Plan B now,” Mas told SBI.
What Inter Miami is banking on is that at least one of the opposing city commissioners will have a change of heart after seeing Tuesday’s vote and opt to support the plans to replace Melreese Country Club with a privately-funded, 25,000-seat stadium. There is also a matter of getting rezoning approval, but that seems likely to happen if and when Inter Miami can get approval from the commissioners on the lease for the land.
“I’m very confident,” Mas told SBI. “This is a mandate from the voters of Miami. We have over 54,000 votes so we have a green light. We’re going to do what we (have said in the deal) and I think that’s important and I think that we’re going to be able to hopefully bring this dream to a reality and really do something this community can be very proud of.”
Hopefully is the key word. While Beckham, Mas, Suarez and other officials celebrated with Inter Miami fans with so much fervent excitement on Tuesday, the reality is things could still go south and that this joyous occasion could end up having been premature.
Nonetheless, Inter Miami believes strongly that things will continue to play out in its favor in the near future and that a stadium deal will get done in due time.
“We’ll see, we’ll see how long it takes,” said Suarez. “We want to do it as soon as possible of course because we want to move this forward so as to begin construction as soon as we can.”