Miami, FL (Wednesday, January 16, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –
Miami Freedom Park. “Let The People Decide.” After much debate, the people of Miami were allowed to decide. They voted on November 6, 2018, and the people said, “Let’s do this.” And now, the next phase of making the dream a reality took another step forward. The will of the people will prevail.
As reported today in the Miami Herald by Joey Flechas, Jose Arrojo, executive director of the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, confirmed that the lobbyists involved in the soccer stadium deal had fulfilled their registration requirement. Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez was officially informed by the county ethics commission Wednesday morning, via a letter advising her that the issue regarding lobbyists’ registrations had been resolved.
Miami’s city administrators thus have a green light to work out details of a 99-year lease with Miami Freedom Park, LLC. Despite the fact that the complaint remains open, the city can begin negotiating the lease under the broad terms overwhelmingly approved by voters in the November referendum.
City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and his staff will work with Miami Freedom Park, LLC, of which Jorge Mas is currently the sole member. (1) The basic terms of this transaction were made part of a term sheet agreed to as part of the city commission sessions on July 17, 2018. (2) Now, the parties will begin negotiations and a prepare a document that will outline the terms under which Melreese Country Club, located on 131 acres of public land adjacent to Miami International Airport, will be transformed into the visionary Miami Freedom Park — a $1 billion private development that will have a 25,000 seat stadium in a 10-acre corner of the property that will serve as home to Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami and which will include Miami Freedom Park, a 58 acre park that will be the city’s largest, as well as public soccer fields. From there, a formal ground lease can be drafted and presented to the city commissioners for ratification.
While there is much discussion in the Herald article concerning the ownership structure of Miami Freedom Park, LLC, in reality a limited liability company can easily alter its legal ownership in a straightforward procedure to add additional owners, who are referred to as ‘members’. This means the other investor-owners of the soccer team (which is operated under Miami Beckham United, LLC) would be admitted at the appropriate time. It is a fairly common practice in commercial transactions. As it stands right now, the primary business interest of Miami Freedom Park, LLC will be what is known as a ‘leasehold interest,’ i.e., the ground lease with the city, and that of course does not exist yet. Thus, the issue of who the members of Miami Freedom Park, LLC are is not relevant since there is no interest to share yet with other potential members. The terms and conditions of the lease must first be worked out. Moreover, there are also practical and necessary reasons beyond the scope of this article as to why the company holding the lease with the city is different from the entity owning Inter Miami CF, reasons that have nothing to do with lack of transparency.
It should also be mentioned that during the two days of sessions held at city hall last summer, which I attended, the issue of the identities of the principles of Miami Freedom Park, LLC was never raised by city commissioners or officials.
What’s next for Miami Freedom Park? Once a lease is agreed to, it requires the approval of four out of five city commissioners. With Commissioner Reyes eternally opposed based on his interpretation of ‘the process’ and Commissioner Gort also speaking against, the Herald writer made a point of including the usual rhetoric from Reyes and Gort, and described the likelihood for success at the city commission as being “a long shot.” But that sells this vision short. Critics and doubters have been spelling doom for the Miami MLS project at every step of the way over the past five years – and they’ve been wrong every time.
When asked about the chances of success, Jorge Mas had this to say: “The city of Miami voters spoke loud and clear in overwhelming fashion. And no matter the delays or obstacles we will deliver this project to our residents.”
“We have instructed our team and lawyers to ‘GO’ and bring this before the commission as soon as possible with the exact deal and benefits voters approved,” Jorge Mas stated. “We fully anticipate that the commission will listen to the voters and residents, but reiterate we are in this for the long haul if necessary.”
This dream that David Beckham and his co-investors have has always been about having vision, about the power of perseverance and the determination to never give up. In the words of Beckham himself at the formal announcement of Fútbol Miami just about a year ago, “I never quit.” It must succeed, and it will. No matter how big the obstacle, I know where I’m placing my money.
(1) Miami Freedom Park, LLC is a Delaware Limited Liability Company, with its principal business address in Miami. It was filed in Delaware on 5/16/2018, and is duly authorized to do business in Florida.