MLS in Miami May Build a Pitch on the Links

MLS in Miami May Build a Pitch on the Links

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We know for certain that Major League Soccer is coming to Miami.  Now we need to know where they’ll get MLS tickets when the club starts playing in 2020.

When MLS officially awarded Miami an expansion team, David Beckham, part of the ownership group, said a stadium was coming to the Overtown neighborhood.

The Overtown neighborhood is northwest of Miami’s downtown area, east of Little Havana, and adjacent to Spring Garden.

That plan seems to have received a red card.

Government officials are now suggesting a city-owned golf course.  The new site is further east and adjacent to Miami International Airport.

Beckham’s ownership group might be over Overtown because of local opposition, in particular Bruce Matheson.  He sued Miami-Dade County to block Beckham’s group proposed 25,000-seat Overtown stadium.

Matheson, who was instrumental in freeing Key Biscayne of professional tennis, owns property in Spring Graden.  That neighborhood is next to the western part of Overtown where Beckham’s bunch wants to erect their soccer facility.

Matheson’s argument is county officials sold the Overtown property at a below-market price and without seeking additional offers.  Beckham’s group, and the county, justified their deal through the state’s economic-development law.  A judge agreed.

“[There] is no reason to allow collusive, corrupt, or uncompetitive sales in the name of economic development… They should have paid a premium for this property rather than insisted on a secret discount from the taxpayers,” wrote Matheson’s attorney Richard Ovelmen.

Government officials said the deal was legal, transparent, and will benefit local taxpayers.  They also derided Matheson for pretending to champion his community when he’s really looking after his own self-interests.

It should be noted that even though Matheson appears to think the beautiful game is ugly, he did offer to buy the Overton property for more than Beckham group’s paid.

All this legal and political wrangling may be a blessing in disguise.  Even without Matheson’s objections, the Overtown site was wrought with issues.  Mainly, there’s no available space for parking and spectators would need to drive through residential side streets to reach the venue.

The new proposed site, the city-owned Melreese golf course, was floated during a meeting between Beckham’s partner Jorge Mas and Miami City Manager Emilio González.

The Melreese golf course is on a 180-acre plot of land.  That’s large enough to accommodate all of Beckham’s stadium desires which include a youth academy, retail space, restaurant, and office complex.

Additionally, it’s close to the Dolphin Expressway and within a short walk of a major transit hub.

“I suggested that perhaps Melreese could be an interesting place to consider, given what it provides,” explained González.  “They expressed an interest.  We both agreed to continue a dialogue.”

That’s not exactly a full-fledged endorsement, but both parties must parse their words.  The matter is likely to be decided by voters, maybe as early as August.

Jorge Mas, and his brother José, were late-comers to the ownership group.  While their arrival helped ease doubts by MLS, it didn’t help the Overtown proposal.  Jorge believes Overtown is insufficient without parking and the other amenities fans now associate with new sports stadiums.

Beckham’s ownership group owns two-thirds of the nine acres needed for the Overtown plan.  The final three acres should be finalized in June.

If the Overtown plan is scrapped, the Mas brothers have talked about using some of the land for a public-housing project.

Before you lament the loss of a Miami golf course, remember that Florida is home to more golf courses than any other state in the union.  The Sunshine State has north of 1,000 places that spoil a good walk.

Also, a nine-hole course or a driving range, may still survive the transformation from links to pitch.

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