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.
Club will not seek naming rights partner for the revitalization of the Bernabéu Stadium; Has “great opportunities” in business without changing the name of the stadium.
Miami, Fla. (Thursday, July 25, 2019) – Kenneth Russo
What’s in a name? In the case of a famous one, a reason not to alter it.
One of the world’s most iconic football stadiums will not be adopting a corporate name. This news came from Real Madrid Club de Fútbol’s Global Head of Partnerships, David Hopkinson.
As reported in Spanish publication ReasonWby.Es, Hopkinson had been interviewed and asked about this ahead of the World Football Summit 2019. It was believed that Real Madrid would seek a stadium naming rights partner. He commented, “Anything is possible, but to put a corporate name on the stadium probably would be incorrect. There are places around the world that are iconic and must be respected.” (“Hay lugares en todo el mundo que son icónicos y deben respetarse”) He also added that Real Madrid enjoys an extraordinary assortment of income-generating opportunities that do not involve adopting a corporate name for the home of Los Blancos.
While the stadium’s name is not changing, many aspects of the stadium will be. The club is planning a complete transformation of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, which is expected to take until 2023 to finish.
Madrid’s ambitious plans for a “digital stadium of the future,” were made possible after securing loans totalling €575 million (£497 million/$641 million USD) in April, 2018 from two US-based financial institutions: Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan. They will start repaying the loans in 2023 at a fixed 2.5 percent interest rate through 2049. The club will service an annual debt of €29.5 million per year on the project throughout the period.
Hopkinson, a Canadian, (and graduate of McGill University) was hired in summer of 2018, after having worked with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), where he was the Chief Commercial Officer. MLSE is the parent company of Toronto Football Club (MLS), the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) and Toronto Raptors (NBA). Explaining the overall business strategy of Real Madrid, Hopkinson said that Real Madrid believes the more it is able to internationalise its business, reputation, and fan base, in the process making the club a global enterprise, the more opportunities the club will have with sponsors around the world.
“Cuanto más podamos internacionalizar nuestro negocio, nuestra reputación, nuestra base de fans, para globalizar este negocio, más oportunidades tendremos con patrocinios en todo el mundo”, detalló.
The renovation will include a retractable roof, new services and experiences designed for fans, taking advantage of the latest in digital stadium technology.
While a football club can expect millions of dollars to have a corporate name on its stadium, in the case of Real Madrid CF, Hopkinson believes the benefit of not changing outweighs the increased revenue. Reaching that conclusion was probably also made easier by the fact that Real Madrid was looking for a naming rights sponsor but actually had difficulty attracting one. Potential sponsors were cautious to invest given the status of the stadium as one of the most famous in the world. It was thought, and altogether realistic to believe, that people would still refer to the stadium as the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu no matter what corporation sponsored the venue.
For the public in Fort Lauderdale, there is much to like about the deal.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (July 10, 2019) —
It was another win in the books for soccer legend David Beckham. On Tuesday night, his group, which operates under the legal entity known as Miami Beckham United, LLC *1 won an agreement from the City of Fort Lauderdale assures the Major League Soccer team will have a new stadium in time for the start of the 2020 season.
City commissioners unanimously embraced plans to transform the defunct Lockhart Stadium, located off Commercial Boulevard and Northwest 12th Avenue, into a professional soccer centre.
City officials said very little Tuesday, and Beckham and his business partners were not present.*2 Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis was very pleased by the result.
“This is a really a wonderful turning point in our community,” Mayor Trantalis said. “Congratulations. We’ll be there for the first kick.”
While Beckham’s ultimate goal is to build his team’s home stadium in Miami, and to use the planned Fort Lauderdale stadium as a training hub for cultivating soccer talent, the immediate problem of finding a suitable place to play in the meantime is solved. For at least the first two seasons, starting next March, Beckham’s new Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, will play in Fort Lauderdale.
The 18,000-seat Fort Lauderdale stadium and the 25,000-seat Miami stadium would be about an hour apart, by car.
For the public in Fort Lauderdale, the transformation will include sports fields, a city park and a home football field for two high schools — Fort Lauderdale and Stranahan — that currently have none.
Already, Lockhart Stadium and the adjacent Fort Lauderdale Stadium have been demolished.
The name of the new sports stadium hasn’t been announced. The agreement approved Tuesday says the group can name any portion of the Inter Miami site, including the stadium, without the city’s consent, “provided such name shall not be in bad taste or offensive to the city’s image, or in the reasonable opinion of the City Commission is a source of embarrassment to the Fort Lauderdale community.”
Commissioner Heather Moraitis said she supports retaining the “Lockhart” name, after former city commissioner H. Y. “Doug” Lockhart. The decision rests on Miami Beckham United, though. Securing a naming rights agreement would be a logical step and one which can bring in revenue that would be used to offset operating costs. While naming rights agreements vary in length and terms, many are between 5 and 7 years in length.
Under the terms of the deal, no money changes hands. In return for use of the property for 50 years, Beckham United will construct sports fields, a trail, playground, and park space on the southern portion of the property, for the community. The agreement expires on December 31, 2069, but Inter Miami can renew the lease agreement for a five-year term. Thereafter, by mutual agreement, the lease can be renewed for two additional five-year terms.
The city intends to use some of its $200 million parks bond, approved by voters in November, to enhance the new city park there.
Other terms of the deal:
FOOD, DRINKS: The Inter Miami group can operate concessions, including any restaurant, sports bar or tavern.
COMMUNITY: At least 24 days a year, local high schools will have access to Inter Miami’s turf field for high school football or soccer events. In addition, four days a year, the city can use Inter Miami’s stadium for football, soccer, JROTC, band concerts or other community events.
SPELLING: The agreement says that “Miami Beckham shall endeavour in good faith not to abbreviate the word ‘Fort’ in city’s name in any written promotional materials.”
MONEY: Miami Beckham United will pay the estimated $60 million to construct all improvements. After that, the group will pay to operate and maintain just the Inter Miami portion, which includes a stadium and a 50,000 square foot training facility with locker rooms, weight rooms, classrooms, and dining facilities.
DEADLINE: All the work is to be completed within three years, but if it’s not, the city’s only recourse is to take over construction of the public portion, and bill it to Miami Beckham United.
And say this for Beckham: He somehow lasted the process. He needed some local muscle like Mas being added. But even if you didn’t follow all the ins and outs, the commission meetings and changed stadium sites, Beckham lasting six years through this fight is as revealing as the finish line drawing near.
“I had no idea,” Beckham said. “I honestly thought I’d announce the team and we’d be up and playing in a year. Not because of who I am. Just because I felt there was such a movement in this country and such a moment in the MLS and this sport that I just assumed it would be pretty easy to start a team.”
*1 – Miami Beckham United, LLC is a Delaware Limited Liability Corporation duly authorised to conduct business in the State of Florida.
*2 – The ownership group consists of Jorge and Jose Mas, chairman and CEO, respectively, of MasTec engineering and construction company; Marcelo Claure, co-founder of Brightstar Corp. and chief operating officer for SoftBank, which owns Sprint, and billionaire businessman Masayoshi Son, founder and executive chairman of SoftBank.
The popular Basque city of San Sebastián (Donostia) is well known for its world-class tourist attractions, from La Concha Beach to the Comb of the Wind sculpture to the International Film Festival. This rich culinary and cultural city will also soon have a completed renovation of its football stadium as well. La Liga club Real Sociedad is engaged in a redevelopment of its Estadio Anoeta which will transform it into one of the best venues in Spain.
La ciudad de San Sebastián, en el país vasco es conocida por sus atracciones turísticas de clase mundial. Desde la playa de la Concha hasta el Peine del Viento o el Festival Internacional de Cine, la ciudad está considerada una de las más bellas de España. La remodelación de su estadio de Anoeta está destinada para crear uno de los mejores lugares de España, otro hito clave que atrae a los visitantes a la ciudad vasca.
“Queremos que el estadio sea atractivo no solo para un tipo de aficionado”, dijo el presidente del club, Jokin Aperribay. “No queremos que sea solo para los jóvenes, o solo para las personas mayores o solo para las familias, queremos que sea para todos”.
The Chicago Fire will pay the Village of Bridgeview $60.5 million to break its SeatGeek Stadium lease, per a local report, paving the way for a move to Soldier Field in the short term — and a new home for the MLS team potentially down the road.
The Bridgeview Village Board unanimously agreed to the terms of a buyout of the lease yesterday, providing financial certainty to both the team and the village. Under the terms of the agreement, the Fire will pay $10 million upfront and the balance paid off over the next 15 years. In addition, the team will pay $5 million annually for the use of the stadium for practices. From the Des Plaines Valley News:
Mayor Steve Landek called the agreement “a fair deal for everybody.”
“We like to see the Fire unleash its potential out in the whole market. I think it’s good for the Fire. I think it’s good for Bridgeview. Most of all, it relieves any of our angst over the stadium debt.
“Sometimes, we live and die with the success of the Fire. If they have a good year, we have a good year. If they have a bad year, we all are suffering. This, I think, will be a good idea for everybody,” Landek said.
The agreement, according to Bridgeview officials, allows for SeatGeek Stadium debt to be paid off without the need for additional property taxes. In addition, there’s potentially more revenue down the road if the Fire develops a new stadium within 35 miles of SeatGeek Stadium.
For the Fire, the lease buyout frees the team to make both short-term and new long-term plans. Short term, the team is likely to commit to Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, until a new stadium is prepped. The former Michael Reese Hospital site on Lake Shore Drive, just south of McCormick Place, has been under city ownership since it was purchased as part of a failed bid for the 2016 Olympics. It has not been redeveloped thus far, but a new Fire stadium could be part of the solution. Chicago Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman, who is resigning from his post, mentioned a potential Fire stadium during an interview on Monday. However, he labeled it a “long-term idea” and cautioned that any future redevelopment of the site will be complex, likely requiring multiple uses. Sounds like the sort of large-scale development challenge MLS officials love.
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: