In just over a week, voters head to the polls in Miami. Regardless of the outcome on City of Miami Referendum 1 we know that David Beckham’s MLS franchise will be finally kicking off in 2020. Whether their permanent home is to be in Overtown or Melreese, Inter Miami CF will need a temporary home. Potential locations are already being looked at, but which option is best?
A stadium used primarily for college football at Florida Atlantic University. It’s been tossed around as a potential site by some as a way to forge links outside of Dade County early on. Let’s take a look.
Location – 1/10: It’s 50 miles away from the city of Miami. This is a huge issue. Since Mas and Beckham have teamed up they’ve got a lot of decisions right, you’d have to question the decision to take a temporary venue so far away from the final permanent home. This would be a real trek for anyone in South Miami or Kendall for example.
Transport links – 8/10: Just off the I-95 and actually not bad for public transit either. It’s a mile walk from Boca Raton’s Tri-Rail station.
Playing surface – 7/10: Nicely maintained natural grass. You’ve markings from other sports to contend with, but that’s an issue other venues will also face. Only downside is the operator doesn’t have much experience in transitioning the venue to accommodate soccer on anything other than a one-off basis.
Fan experience – 6/10: It’s designed for football and that always comes with the trade off of being quite far from the action on the field. It’s also completely open with no cover at all. The capacity is appropriate though. It can accommodate 29,419 people which would make it ideal for an MLS side. A full house would be a great atmosphere here.
Other tenants and issues – 5/10: FAU Stadium is used by two other teams. MLL’s Florida Launch and, of course, the Florida Atlantic Owls football team. Scheduling is never usually that hard if you’re sharing with one other team but sharing with two, even if they play at different times of the year, could throw up some headaches.
TOTAL 27/50: In another location it would really be a front runner as it scores very highly is some areas. But it will be difficult to make a big deal about wanting to be so identifiably Miami and then going and playing this far north. Inter Miami CF can’t afford to make mistakes, especially early on, and starting so far outside of Miami could be a massive own goal.
HARD ROCK STADIUM
South Florida’s showpiece stadium is now just over 30 years old and went through a recent update. Designed for football, it still does a great job of putting on other events.
Location – 5/10: The location is pretty solid if unspectacular. It’s Dade County but only just and in the middle of nowhere.
Transport links – 5/10: Your only realistic option is to drive and that of course means you are going to get stung for parking on top of everything. Forget public transport.
Playing surface – 9/10: Also has natural grass and has hosted some of the best soccer teams on the planet with no complaints. Ground staff are experienced at turning the surface around for different sports.
Fan experience – 7/10: The stadium is easy on the eye post-facelift but behind the cosmetic improvements it’s good without being great. Again as a football stadium, if you like to watch the game with a bird’s eye view you’ll be OK. If you want to be close to the action then it’s not so hot. There is more cover than FAU but although you’ll be protected from the rain and the sun it can get pretty windy in some parts of the stadium due to it being in such an exposed location. The capacity is 64,767, which is far too big. Closing off the top tier will help but empty seats are empty seats. The atmosphere will suffer at a stadium that isn’t close to capacity.
Other tenants and issues – 4/10: There’s just so much going on already. Would the franchise want to play second or third fiddle so much? The opening of the MLS season clashes directly with tennis thanks to the Miami Open moving to the Hard Rock from Key Biscayne. In the fall you are battling not one but two football teams. On top of that there is a big schedule of concerts and other events.
TOTAL 30/50: A safe choice but with quite a few little drawbacks. The biggest issues are finding the space for the games in the stadium’s busy schedule and it’s uninspiring location. It’s a place Miami’s sports fans are used to going to though, even if it’s not the best for soccer.
RICCARDO SILVA STADIUM
The spiritual home of pro soccer in Miami in this decade.
Location – 6/10: Similar to the Hard Rock, just on the other side of town. It’s a bit closer to the city and the possible permanent locations though and there’s a bit more going on in the surrounding area.
Transport links – 5/10: Just off the turnpike. Don’t want to drive? Good luck on that #11 bus!
Playing surface – 6/10: Artificial turf. It might be new artificial turf but it’s still not the real thing.
Fan experience – 6/10: The stadium is a bit barebones and open to the elements. Its asset is its small size. Even though it’s designed for football, you’re a little more on top of things than at Hard Rock or FAU. The capacity is exactly 20,000, which might make it a bit small but on the other hand Becks will be able to boast sellout after sellout.
Other tenants and issues – 3/10: This is where things get tricky. The Ricky has demonstrated it can host a whole soccer season alongside the FIU Panthers but are Miami FC about to make a return? Although FC’s future is up in the air there’s an expectation that they will back to bigger things soon, possibly as early as 2019 with the rumored NPSL Pro. If Miami FC are playing here, it’s out of the running as the MLS will not sanction a ground share. And that’s before you even get into what an unpopular figure Silva is with the folks at SUM. If Miami FC vanish it’s a good option but that’s almost certainly not going to happen.
TOTAL 26/50: Well-known to soccer fans in Miami and solid scores across the board. But Miami FC have first dibs. If they are going back, it can’t be considered.
The much-maligned ballpark in Little Havana needs a PR win. Could hosting the new soccer franchise be just the ticket?
Location – 8/10: You’ve got to get people used to coming to a centrally located stadium early on. Say what you want about Marlins Park, the location is second to none.
Transport links – 7/10: Close to the Dolphin but the public transit could be a little better. Metrorail is the other side of the river, although there are free shuttle buses during sports events. A short Uber or Lyft journey from surrounding areas like Doral, Gables and the Grove, Downtown and Miami Beach is a big bonus.
Playing surface – 6/10: Natural grass. The challenge is that there can be big differences in how baseball fields and soccer pitches are prepared. Also you are constrained with the dimensions of the pitch. Not ideal.
Fan experience – 7/10: Once you get over the weird shape of the stadium there is a lot to like. The biggest plus is the roof. This means you can sidestep all the weather delays that would come with the other options. It’s also the only stadium that officially has a standing area, albeit a small one. You can get fans behind both goals so it so overall should score pretty high on atmosphere. It’s a far nicer stadium to actually be in than the other options. Capacity of 37,442 is maybe a little high, but if the team starts off winning they could fill it.
Other tenants and issues – 6/10: Sharing with a baseball team is manageable and they are the only other tenants. Compared to Hard Rock there are far fewer other events to negotiate on the schedule.
TOTAL 34/50: On balance Marlins Park is a nose ahead of the other options. The geometry inside the stadium is not ideal but it’s a temporary venue. The huge advantages it has in other areas should make it first choice. A full stadium will be good for the operator and the team will be starting as they mean to go on, as close to the heart of Miami as possible.
If FAU Stadium is an option, so should Lockhart be. The only existing, if deserted, soccer specific stadium in South Florida. It has even hosted MLS in the past.
Location – 3/10: We are outside Miami-Dade again. Not as much of a mission as FAU but still a good distance from the City of Miami.
Transport links – 8/10: Pretty much the same as FAU here. Moments from the I-95 and a short walk from Cypress Creek on the Tri-Rail.
Playing surface – 7/10: Was a good natural grass surface in it’s heyday and could easily be again. It would need some attention to get back up and running though.
Fan experience – 7/10: You would be hard-pushed to find anyone with a bad word to say about Lockhart. It’s hosted many famous evenings of soccer through the years and is a treasured part of the history of the sport in South Florida. The stadium is open without many places to take cover when it rains but that is surely the only true negative. The combination of it’s historic charm and soccer-specific design make it a great place to watch the sport. It’s small though: 17,417 is its capacity, but that could mean a full house every game.
Other tenants and issues – 6/10: With Lockhart you get exclusivity and you can completely make the place your own. It would require a little cosmetic attention to make it fit for use again but that’s easily doable in the year and half the Beckham Group has. Its age isn’t an issue for the regular fan but it does lack the flashy executive pizzazz the suits might want.
TOTAL 31/50: It would be a great gesture to restore this stadium and hand it back to the community, that would be a big PR win. It could even be retained for a USL affiliate or B team or even an NWSL team. It’s soccer heritage brings something to the table that no other venue can.
There’s not much in it. All five are great options and all have their strengths. Which venue do you prefer? Where should Inter Miami CF start out? Let us know on social media.