Miami Freedom Park approved by City Commission

The City of Miami has voted in favour of a lease deal for the land on which Inter Miami’s proposed Miami Freedom Park project will sit, nearly a decade on from the initial efforts of the club’s ownership group to deliver a new Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium.

City of Miami Commissioners yesterday (Thursday) voted 4-1 for a 99-year lease deal concerning 73 acres of city-owned land on which Melreese golf course is currently situated. David Beckham, who in February 2014 exercised his option to acquire an MLS expansion franchise, and partners Jorge and Jose Mas have long pursued a new stadium for Inter Miami, which was formed in January 2018 and made its League debut in 2020.

Inter Miami in January appeared poised to finally close a deal for Miami Freedom Park (MFP) after the Florida city’s Mayor, Francis Suarez, stated that an agreement in principle had been reached. The news came with Inter Miami set to enter its third season playing at the DRV PNK Stadium temporary home in Fort Lauderdale.

An agreement was said have been reached with the City of Miami to build the new stadium and develop the Freedom Park site, with Suarez approving the venture. However, the deal needed be signed off by the City Commission, which happened yesterday.

MFP is intended to become a recreation destination that all Miamians can enjoy, providing 58 acres of public parks and green space, a tech hub, restaurants, shops and soccer fields for the community, as well as the 25,000-seat stadium for Inter Miami.

The stadium design has been created by international sports design firm MANICA, with Miami-based firm Arquitectonica providing the masterplan, and new renderings were released in May 2021. The project will not utilise any city taxpayer dollars as it is 100% privately funded by club ownership.

Miami Freedom Park has received support from City of Miami residents, having gained more than 60% voter approval in a November 2018 referendum. With this vote, the residents indicated that they wanted the City to negotiate and execute a lease for the proposed land for the project, but the plans had not moved forward significantly since then.

The approval of the lease agreements, which still needs zoning changes to be backed before the project moves forward, comes with ambitions for the stadium having been upgraded. A 40,000-seat capacity is now being targeted, according to the Miami Herald, after Inter Miami agreed to discuss hosting University of Miami Hurricanes college football games.

The newspaper also said financial terms of the lease deal have changed following yesterday’s negotiations. The changes include an increase in the overall annual rent floor to $4.3m (£3.42m/€4.07m) from $3.57m, an increase in rent during the construction period, and a revenue-sharing agreement that provides the city with 6% of gross revenue instead of 5%, if that figure exceeds the rent floor.

Mayor Suarez has been a proponent of the MFP project since its inception. “I have never been prouder to be a Miamian than I am today,” he said, after its approval.

Inter Miami CEO and managing owner, Jorge Mas, stated: “No matter how difficult, how long, how frustrating, through good days and bad days, I always knew that this would happen because I believe in our city and I believe in dreaming. Today a dream commences.”

The club will maintain permanent facilities in the City of Fort Lauderdale with a 50,000 sq foot training facility and DRV PNK Stadium. Inter Miami will continue to play home matches at DRV PNK Stadium while the club works towards constructing Miami Freedom Park.