The City of Miami has moved to close Melreese Country Club, the golf course on which Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami (Inter Miami) plans to build its new stadium, amid concerns over pollution levels.

The story moved on yesterday (Tuesday) after a study was earlier found to have stated that the Melreese site is considerably more toxic than first anticipated. Inter Miami will enter MLS in 2020 and plans on spending its first two seasons at a redeveloped Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale while work on the Miami Freedom Park project is carried out.

The club hopes to move into its new 25,000-seat stadium at Melreese by 2021. However, the study by environmental firm EE&G, reported that contamination levels on the site are at twice the allowable limit for arsenic. Soil samples at surface level were also found to contain debris that poses a “physical hazard”.

Barium and lead levels also exceed legal limits, with the contamination said to have originated from a nearby municipal incinerator which has been closed for decades. In a statement, Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez said: “At the close of business today, the City of Miami will close Melreese Country Club/Golf Course until further notice.

“The purpose of this action is to allow outside experts to analyse the results of substantial new environmental testing conducted at the course. The golf course will be reopened pending a favourable analysis.”

EE&G is a consultant hired by Jorge and Jose Mas, David Beckham’s business partners in the Inter Miami franchise. The report, funded by Mas’ group, has been carried out as the city continues to negotiate a no-bid lease deal for the Melreese site which was originally submitted in June.

Its release has been met with scepticism in certain quarters, with Commissioner Manolo Reyes, a vocal opponent to Miami Freedom Park, calling for an investigation into whether the test results truly show levels of pollution that merit closure of the golf course.

“I don’t know if this is for real, that we have gotten an increase in pollution,” he told the Miami Herald newspaper. “What I want to know is if it is something that’s been done as a tactic to devalue the land. Then they can claim they will have to pay less.”

In response, the Miami Freedom Park team said: “All we have done is share the factual outcome of the study we committed to undertake on the Melreese golf course.”

A city spokesperson told CBS4 News the city hopes to close the Melreese Club for just a few days until they can get further information on the matter.

Image: Melreese Country Club