CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Inter Miami may not yet have secured the land it needs to build a soccer-specific stadium, but the club is getting closer to selecting where it will play on a temporary basis.
The 2020 start date for Inter Miami continues to draw closer, and the need to pick a venue to play in, and sell tickets for, during that season is intensifying as a result. Inter Miami is hoping to build its permanent home on 78 acres next to Miami International Airport, but the proposal to acquire that plot of land has not been approved yet and it will still take a year or two to construct the proposed 25,000-seat stadium if and when the plans are given the green light.
A temporary venue will have to be selected in the meantime, certainly at least for the expansion year. There are currently a few options on the table that the club is working through, and a formal announcement could come in the next 2-3 months.
“We’re going to start at a different stadium,” said co-majority owner Jorge Mas on Tuesday night. “We’re negotiating with Marlins Park, with Hard Rock Stadium, with FIU, and we will have a decision on that hopefully in the next 60-90 days.”
The timeframe makes sense given that it would put an announcement at January or February, which is about a full year out from when Inter Miami would begin playing. Individual match and season tickets could then begin to go on sale, which is important as the club attempts to tap into the buzz that currently exists in the city order to gain a bigger foothold in a market that already has teams in each of the four other major sports.
The announcement may ultimately include more than one stadium, though. A possibility for the temporary solution that was floated back in January when MLS officially awarded an expansion franchise to co-owner David Beckham and Miami was playing in a number of different stadiums throughout the area. The main reason given was that hosting games in several places as opposed to one would introduce the team regionally and expose it to more locals, both in Miami-Dade County and in the neighboring cities and counties.
It is an approach that still appears to be under consideration.
“That might still be an option, as is possibly playing a little bit further north,” said Mas. “We’re exploring everything and when I say everything I mean in terms of putting the fans first in our consideration for a venue.”
While Inter Miami may ultimately decide to play most of its matches in just one of the aforementioned venues instead of more evenly distributing them, it does seem likely that a rotation of sorts, even if only slight, will happen. Mas mentioned another university, albeit one much further north in Boca Raton, as a potential host for a couple of games in 2020.
“We’ve also talked about possibly playing one or two games at FAU,” said Mas.
One factor that may be playing a role in Inter Miami considering the idea of alternating venues is that there is no ideal stopgap solution. Marlins Park, which has a retractable roof to protect its 36,000-plus spectators from poor weather, is the closest venue to both the urban core of downtown Miami and to the location of Inter Miami’s desired permanent home. It is, however, a baseball stadium that, like New York City FC’s Yankee Stadium, does not have ideal sight lines for watching soccer.
Hard Rock Stadium was constructed with the sport in mind and has a partial roof that covers fans, but it is a much larger NFL venue like the New England Revolution’s Gillette Stadium that sits more than 65,000 people. Another strike against Hard Rock Stadium is that it is located 15 miles north of the downtown area in a desolate part of Miami Gardens that does not have many bars or restaurants nearby.
FIU’s Riccardo Silva Stadium is probably best suited simply from viewing and size perspectives given that it can hold just north of 20,000 fans and was made for college soccer and football. What it has going against it, though, is that is has a turf field, is located well west of downtown Miami, and does not have a roof to provide fans cover from the frequent rain that pummels South Florida.
FAU Stadium, meanwhile, boasts a grass pitch and good size for Inter Miami, sitting a crowd of about 30,000. It too lacks a roof, however, and more importantly is located a 45-minute drive from downtown Miami, which is even further than where the defunct Miami Fusion played during their days in MLS.
There might be considerable pros and cons in each venue, but Inter Miami still has time to make a decision on how to ultimately handle its debut season. The good news for the club is that it has options, even if none of them boast the perfect package to begin play in while the permanent home gets worked on.
“We’re hoping to enter into negotiations very quickly with the city, get the (soccer-specific) stadium build on the map,” said Mas.