Yesterday, Inter Miami CF Managing Owner Jorge Mas was interviewed on the radio show Cada Tarde with Carinés Moncada and Agustín Acosta on Actualidad 1040AM in Miami. This interview came as the City of Miami Commissioners take up the issue of Miami Freedom Park once again this Thursday, October 24, 2019 at Miami City Hall (3500 Pan American Dr, Miami, FL 33133). Supporters are encouraged to email their city commissioners and show up to demonstrate their support as early as 8:00 a.m.
The complete interview (en españo) is available on YouTube and linked here:
The half-hour long interview touched on many points. Here are some of the points that came out:
The reception Inter Miami has experienced in South Florida has been amazing. Ticket sales have been very strong with almost all of the season tickets for the first season already sold. The first home game will be March 14, 2020 at the new Inter Miami temporary home stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
On the issue of the value of the land where Miami Freedom Park is to be constructed, Mas said: “From day one, we have always said we are disposed to pay [rent] based on the fair market value of the land.” He added, “The value of the land is the value of the land. When the professional appraisers determine what the land is worth, that’s the value. We have to leave it to the processional appraisers to determine that. I’m not interested in negotiating their figure.”
On the stigma left behind by the taxpayer-financed Marlins Park deal which has been a frequent rallying cry for those opposed to Miami Freedom Park, Mas had this to say: “What happened with the Marlins stadium, we cannot penalize this project and the aspirations to bring soccer to Miami. This project is totally different from the Marlins. Here, the city is not contributing one cent.”
On the issue of why the land at Melreese should not be put out for a request for proposals as has been suggested by Commissioner Carollo, Jorge Mas said “During the last seventeen months, and all the discussion about why not put the land out for bidding, there was no solicitation process when I brought this project forward, not even an idea for one. At the same time, during these seventeen months any developer anywhere in the world could have gone to the City of Miami with a better idea for this Melreese golf course, and no one came forward.” Mas said that this shows that there has to be a public bid is not true. Here any person can make an unsolicited bid for city property.”
“I want this franchise to play in Miami. It’s our city. We deserve this team. I’ve seen the passion for fútbol (soccer) around the world. The passion exists in Miami. I can say without any doubt that I believe that Inter Miami will become the most popular team in our city in three, four, or five years, but not longer than that.” Mas stressed this will be due to the type of team and players that Inter Miami is going to have, the type of fans that already exist, for the type of international teams that are going to visit and play here, for the type of tournaments we can have here. He also cited the impact that the team is going to have on young players with its academy, mentioning that the Inter Miami Academy has already played in an international tournament in South Korea, and the impact that the team will have on the community. He mentioned that Inter Miami will also probably incorporate a women’s professional team in a few years also. “We’re going to establish something extraordinarily positive for our city.”
As Commissioner Reyes Continues Crusade Against Miami Freedom Park, Ignoring Clear Mandate From The Electorate, Commissioner Carollo mounts his own attempt to derail the project.
Contentious City Commission Meeting Awaits.
MIAMI, Fla. (October 18, 2019) —
Miami Freedom Park faces yet more challenges and potential derailments, as the City of Miami Commission prepares for a contentious meeting on October 24, 2019 at Miami City Hall.
Miami Freedom Park & Soccer Village, the collective name for the project, will be built using entirely private funds and not city tax dollars, and will create one of Miami’s largest public parks at 58 acres. Approximately 73 acres will be used for a soccer stadium for Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, soccer fields for the community, a tech hub, hotel, restaurant, retail and entertainment spaces. The $1 billion dollar project that stands to bring millions in revenue for the city, state, county and school board. The city-owned land, currently occupied by Melreese Country Club, will be leased by the city for a term, which, with options, could reach 99 years, with Miami Freedom Park, LLC making annual lease payments of no less than $3.5 million (based on a third-party fair-market-value appraisal). They will also pay the full cost of the environmental remediation of the property, which is estimated to be in the millions of dollars and will provide a living wage salary of no less than $15/hour for employees working on the property.
In a referendum placed on the ballot in accordance with the City Charter (29B), and subsequently passed by voters on November 6, 2018, the City of Miami is allowed to waive competitive bidding and enter into negotiations for the lease of the city-owned land at the Melreese site. It should be pointed out that the referendum passed in all five City of Miami commission districts. (The referendum was only open to City of Miami voters and not all Miami-Dade County voters, due to the fact that the land is entirely within the City boundaries.)
The debate over the project may climax on October 24, when city commissioners consider a lease that would allow the redevelopment project to move forward. However, City Manager Emilio Gonzalez says that lease is not ready to be voted on, due to the fact that appraisals requested by the city commissioners are not complete, nor are additional items requested, such as traffic study and total remediation costs for the heavily-contaminated golf course.
City Commissioner Manolo Reyes accused the Beckham group of “game playing” to try to stall a vote until after elections are held in November (Commissioner Gort, another opponent of the project, will be out of office due to term limits). However, the travel of this matter does not substantiate such a claim. In fact, Miami Freedom Park delivered a lease to the City, as promised, on June 5, 2019.
At the most recent commission meeting on October 10, 2019, a meeting where Miami Freedom Park was not even on the agenda, Mayor Francis Suarez reminded Commissioner Reyes and the rest of the commission that they took months to select the two law firms that are negotiating on behalf of the city. Suarez further pointed out that the commission chose to weigh in on the process for selecting firms to conduct outside studies that would form the basis of negotiations, decisions that took time over the summer. Thus, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the contract is not ready to vote on and is not likely going to be ready for the city commissioners to consider before the November election.
“This commission mandated that there be three outside studies done: environmental, traffic report and an appraisal,” Suarez said. “None of those are completed, and they will not be completed by tomorrow (Oct 11),” referring to the deadline to have items submitted for the next commission meeting on October 24.
The city commissioners, at a May 23 commission meeting, had an intense debate on which of 16 law firms who had applied would be selected as consultants. After listening to lawyers from several firms, and continued contention from Commissioner Reyes who was adamant that the chosen firm have nothing to do with Cuba, they voted to have City Attorney Victoria Mendez pick from three firms. Reyes voted no at that meeting. The City eventually settled on Shutts & Bowenn, LLP to assist in the negotiations, on June 17, 2019.
The fact that Commissioner Reyes continues to wage war on Miami Freedom Park comes as no surprise. He has vehemently opposed the project since the first day it was on the agenda at city hall. He has argued that the city didn’t follow “the process.” He has argued that there was no transparency. He has gone on radio talk shows to dismiss the project. Now, he has sponsored the following resolution to try to force a vote on a lease which is not ready:
The most recent city commission meeting on October 10, 2019 was yet another display of political division among Miami’s elected leaders. Two commissioners separately demanded an October 24 vote on the lease agreement, despite it not being ready. Commissioner Joe Carollo, one of Suarez’s political foes, also wants to vote on a resolution that would require the city to suspend all negotiations with Miami Freedom Park and authorise a request for proposals (“RFP”) to redevelop most of Melreese, which bids, per the terms of the resolution, would need to include a “luxury hotel and golf resort.” The meeting ended in a shouting match.
In response to these attacks on the Miami Freedom Park plan, Mayor Francis Suarez, a proponent, said he is ready to use his “veto pen” if the commission votes on a deal he feels isn’t ready. Suarez’s veto could only be overridden by the city commission with four out of five votes. It’s also worth mentioning that the referendum approved by voters does not contain any deadline by which a vote on the project must occur.
Commissioner Russell’s chief concern with this project is green space, and he has made it clear that any green space lost by the conversion of Melreese must be made up acre-for-acre. “If this deal yields the loss of one acre of green space in the city of Miami, I will vote no,” he said. Given that Miami has less green space and less public spaces in general than practically any large city in the United States, and lacks a grand park like more famous world-class cities, his argument has merit. The city has a law that requires parkland that is rezoned to be replaced, so there is no net loss to the city. Miami Freedom Park has always been on-board with the replacing of any lost green space. It was even part of a term sheet signed last summer. Moreover, in conjunction with the lease agreement submitted to the City of Miami, Miami Freedom Park has also delivered a Community Benefits Agreement, honouring its vow to gift $5 million for the City’s Riverwalk/Baywalk project, $20 million for park maintenance and free access to the soccer fields at Miami Freedom Park for City of Miami youth. Details of these agreements are available on the Miami Freedom Park website.
Inter Miami CF and Miami Freedom Park have also honoured their commitment to finalise an agreement with the First Tee program, ensuring the organisation will continue to serve children at a new location.
Managing Owner Jorge Mas has always remained positive. “Miami Freedom Park is working diligently to finalise a lease agreement with the city of Miami,” Mas said. “Sixty percent of city of Miami residents, an overwhelming majority, voted to amend the city charter and authorised the city to negotiate with Miami Freedom Park; we remain focused on fulfilling that voter mandate. We invite residents to visit our website to learn more and share their input.”
What lies ahead for this ambitious plan? We will know more shortly. Maybe. The project has made it this far, it has won an election that many said was impossible. Representatives of Miami Freedom Park have held countless sessions across the city in recent months that have been open to the public, in order to answer questions, educate, and hear residents’ concerns.
There is every reason to believe it will cross the finish line.
The Miami City Commissioners passed RE14, the resolution to appoint legal consultants to assist in the Miami Freedom Park lease negotiations, by a 4-1 vote. The lone ‘no’ was Manolo Reyes, who once again was argumentative and openly dismissive and hostile to the plan. Furthermore, the resolution was amended such that the city attorney will have the final say on which of 3 law firm(s) to work with. (Original article follows)
With Public Mandate secured in last November’s election, Miami Freedom Park moves on to the negotiation stage.
Tuesday, May 21, 2019 – Kenneth Russo
The Miami City Commission will decide on a resolution at the City Commissioners Meeting scheduled for this Thursday, May 23, 2019.
The resolution reads as follows:
A RESOLUTION OF THE MIAMI CITY COMMISSION AUTHORIZING THE RETENTION OF _______________________ AS LEGAL CONSULTANTS TO WORK IN CONSULTATION WITH THE CITY ATTORNEY AND TO PROVIDE SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTISE ON NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE CITY OF MIAMI AND FREEDOM PARK LLC; FURTHER AUTHORIZING THE EXPENDITURE OF FUNDS FOR SAID PURPOSE; ALLOCATING FUNDS FROM THE NON-DEPARTMENTAL LEGAL SERVICES ACCOUNT NO. 00001.980000.531010.0000.00000.
With approval by over 60% of Voters on November 6, 2018, the referendum for an amendment to Section 29-B of the Charter of the City of Miami allows the City Commission to negotiate and execute a 99 year lease with Miami Freedom Park, LLC. Approximately 73 acres of the land will be used for the Soccer Stadium project (includes 1,000,000 square feet of office, retail, entertainment and commercial uses, 750 hotel rooms, public soccer fields) and approximately 58 acres for Miami Freedom Park, a new public park. The stadium will become the permanent home of Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami. It is expected to have around 25,000 seats and be ready for the 2022 MLS season.
Two Legal Consultants Under Consideration by City
One of the firms being considered is actually a partnership of two law firms with relevant experience: Fowler, White, Burnett and O’Melveny & Myers, LLP.
Fowler is headquartered in Miami and has additional offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. In a document filed in support of their appointment, Fowler lists the following leasing-related services it can provide to clients:
Rent escalation clauses
Leasing brokerage agreements and issues
Ground-lease transactions both for new developments and existing buildings
Major sale and leasebacks transactions
Creative tenant-equity leases
Reciprocal lease agreements
Property management agreements
O’Melveny’s legal expertise in stadium development issues is well known in the legal field. Alliance partner Irwin Raij, Esq. a partner at O’Melveny, has extensive sporting and stadium experience, which includes advising Phoenix Rising FC in connection with its MLS Expansion bid and related new stadium construction. Additionally, Attorney Raij has advised Palace Entertainment in connection with its bid for an MLS expansion team in Detroit. Charles Baker, Esq. is Co-Chair of O’Melveny’s Sports Industry Practice Group and has been involved in a number of purchases and sales of sports franchises as well as private equity, and venture capital transactions, with a core focus in the sports, media and consumer sectors.
O’Melveny has also represented the developer of Dignity Health Sports Park (f/k/a Stubhub Center) the home stadium of the Los Angeles Galaxy, and served as counsel to Major League Baseball in the negotiations for Marlins Park. The firm also has naming rights experience and has worked on public-private partnerships.
The other law firm being considered by the City is Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, LLP (“BCP”). This firm boasts 1,400 lawyers in 31 offices across North America (including Miami), Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The firm’s response to the City states that: “We are among the most active law firms in the world in handling significant stadium developments and financing , as well as naming rights and sponsorship transactions. We have the expertise to handle all aspects of these projects, having served as lead counsel in connection with a number of high profile event venue projects across the United States and abroad, including the Staples Center, The 02 Arena (London), The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas NHL), the Dignity Health Sports Park (f/k/a StubHub Center) and many others.”
With regard to the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, BCP served as lead counsel to the developer, handling all aspects of the project, from real estate to naming and sponsorship rights. The firm represented the City of Jacksonville in its negotiations with the NFL Jaguars on a lease renegotiation, and has advised on two MLS stadiums: Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ and Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.
What effect does this have on the Miami Freedom Park project?
I believe this is a positive development. The Commissioners know that the voters have approved this so the idea of Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village has a public mandate. Thwarting the will of the people after a public vote is clearly not in their best interests. They obviously also have a responsibility to obtain the best result for the City. Having legal counsel with experience in these types of projects should produce a lease that is fair to both the city and Miami Freedom Park, LLC. The balancing act will be to not make the deal so one-sided in the City’s favour that an agreed upon lease becomes economically impractical from Miami Freedom Park’s perspective. But firms like this are highly skilled and their goal will be to succeed, i.e. produce a lease that is mutually acceptable.
It is entirely conceivable that the final lease produced by this process receives unanimous support of the City Commission.
Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village 2018 Promotional Video, courtesy of Inter Miami CF:
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.