Miami commissioners hear arguments on potential soccer stadium

MIAMI (WSVN) - City of Miami commissioners are hours away from deciding whether or not to allow voters to determine if a massive soccer stadium will be built in the Magic City.

A commission meeting is underway Thursday, and it may determine the future of Major League Soccer in Miami.

Commissioners will make a move that could let voters decide on a change to city law that would pave the way for the David Beckham group to build a stadium and soccer complex on land that is currently home to Melreese Golf Course.

However, before commissioners make their decision, they are taking comments from the public and hearing their thoughts on the matter. A host of residents came out to speak, many having to wait outside because the chamber had reached maximum capacity.

“I urge you to remember that this vote is not for whether a soccer stadium should be built or whether a golf stadium should be allowed to remain, but whether democracy exits in this country,” said one man at the meeting.

Two commissioners appear to be ready to let voters decide on the construction of the stadium. Two other commissioners appear ready to vote no. However, Commissioner Ken Russell appears to be undecided.

“The truth of the matter is the people most directly affected in that area where that project goes, before the entire city gets a vote, only elected two people,” said Russell at the meeting. “My vote today, I’m untouchable to them because they don’t get to vote for me down, up or down, next time up. The role of a district commissioner is sacred.”

Many came out to voice their support for the stadium.

“My vote is in support of putting this on the ballot, and I think it will be a great thing for South Florida and our kids and our grandkids in the future,” one man said.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have a first class soccer complex, park and MLS team that will truly be a team that belongs to all of Miami.

However, there was some opposition as well.

“Time and time again, our commissioners have negotiated bad deals and the millionaires have not delivered,” said one woman in protest of the stadium. “Our residents are here and here because they’ve had enough.”

Among those against the stadium were over 80 parents and children from the First Tee program at the Melreese golf course who turned out to voice their concerns.

“This place is my sanctuary, my oasis, my safe place, and if it’s gotten rid of, me and many other people like me wouldn’t have their homes and jobs,” said one girl against the construction of the stadium. “How can we have a youth golf program without a golf course? How can a young woman change a game without a place to play?”

“I’m not against making money, just not at the expense of our golf course,” said another man.

Lines formed outside City Hall, where opinions varied among those awaiting the big decision that may bring MLS to South Florida.

“Going to be something that’s gonna be beneficial to the city. It’s going to be something that we need,” said Michaelle Montes. “We have such a diverse group here that love football. It’s not only the American football but the world football.”

But not everyone outside the meeting is excited about the soccer complex.

“Because it’s government property, city-controlled property,” said Emerson Fales. “They’ll be creating traffic problems. They’ll be adding retail, which is a bad industry. I don’t want to see green space reduced in the city.”

“I’m for green space, and I’m for soccer,” added Joey Corona. “I’m just not for the soccer stadium and all the other commercial space around it being put there.”

Fans also gathered at Regatta Park in Coconut Grove for a chance to see Beckham in person.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t have it here, and I think the community would welcome it,” said Brad Herman.

The Beckham group is expected to give their presentation after the commission finishes hearing public comments.

“Hopefully people really support us and get behind the dreams that we’re going to present today,” said Beckham.

If the commission votes to send the decision to the voters, it will appear on the November ballot.

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