For some people at the City of Miami’s commission chambers Wednesday, it was nearly an 18-hour day. For supporters and opponents of Fútbol Miami MLS’ ballot initiative, they came and had their say. However, at nearly 11 p.m., the city’s commissioners voted to delay discussion on the proposed stadium and park for nearly a week.
The day started for some at 6 a.m., when representatives from both sides came to the chambers to claim a seat. Even through discussion on the initiative wouldn’t start until 2 p.m., people wanted to be seen and heard. The distinctive orange shirts and hats from Melreese Country Club’s The First Tee program could be seen abundantly throughout the day.
The real action on the pro-soccer side started around noon, when Fútbol Miami MLS’ tailgate/rally started in Regatta Park. It featured food, music and activities for children. The heat did not deter hundreds from turning out.
At about 1:40 p.m., co-owners Jorge Mas and David Beckham arrived at the park to address supporters.
“We’ve always said that this team is your team, and the fact that you’re hear today supporting us, you’re with us, we feel that and we need that,” Beckham told the crowd. “No matter what, we’re coming to Miami, simple as that.”
After a march to city hall, some MLS supporters came in, but the chamber had largely filled by that point, and many speakers were forced to wait outside.
At 2 p.m., commission chairman Keon Hardemon gaveled in the proceedings. The question in front of the commission was not to approve or deny the stadium, it involved empowering the City Attorney to draft language for a ballot initiative that would appear on the general election ballot on Nov. 6 which would empower the city to negotiate a deal, similar to a deal the Miami Dolphins arranged in the 1980s. Over the course of the next three hours and 45 minutes, public comment ensued. Speakers who reside in the city were granted two minutes to speak, alternating between “for” and “against”. Among the speakers included Orlando Hernández, better known as El Duque. The four-time World Series champion is a supporter of Melreese, and has done work around the course since retiring from Major League Baseball.
Just after 6 p.m., Mas rose to deliver his proposal to the commission. He detailed what is being called “Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village,” a large-scale development that will include the MLS stadium, retail and restaurant space, office buildings and 58 acres of open park space.
“I want greatness in my city. I want to be able to dream big” Mas told the commission. “I want the voters to decide. I want every single voice in the City of Miami to make a decision on this project.
“Let them decide. If they share this vision, if they want greatness so be it. And if they don’t, then they don’t. It’s the voters decision.”
After the presentation, which included Mas, Beckham and the head architect from Arquitectonica, mayor Francis Suarez added his input. Suarez supports the plan.
Once the mayor had his comment, the commission began its question and comment period. It was during that time that the meeting lost the plot a bit, with commissioners sniping back and forth.
It became clear that vice chairman Ken Russell was the most likely swing vote on the commission. His issues with the plan include a home for The First Tee, remediation of toxic ash located underneath the golf course, and guaranteeing a living wage for workers at the property.
In the 10 o’clock hour, the tensions reached their highest, with commissioners directly confronting one another. Despite protest from Fútbol Miami MLS, the commission decided to kick the can down the road for six days.
The commission will meet again on July 18 at 10 a.m. to resume discussion of the initiative. There will be no public comment at that meeting, as the public had their say on July 12.