New Miami MLS stadium decision to go to November referendum

Voters will decide whether David Beckham's MLS team in Miami will be able to build a stadium complex on a municipal golf course.

Miami commissioners on Wednesday narrowly approved a referendum for Nov. 6 that will ask voters whether Beckham's ownership group should get a no-bid lease for 73 acres of Melreese Country Club.

"Good, a first step, the beginning of bringing this dream to a reality, you know, and I think here among the commission they've seen that this could be something I think unique and iconic that could show Miami's best to the world," majority owner Jorge Mas said. "So I'm very happy and now we've got to get to work."

Petitions have been circulating to save the course, where Tiger Woods has appeared for clinics in the past. Longtime LPGA star Cristie Kerr, a Miami native, has voiced opposition to the Melreese plan in recent months, as has fellow Miami native pro Erik Compton.

MLS and Beckham formally announced the Miami expansion team in January, after Miami-Dade County commissioners approved a deal to sell Beckham nearly three acres of county land for $9 million with the belief that it would be the last parcel he needed for a stadium site in the city's Overtown neighborhood.

But Mas, who joined the group after the Overtown deals were completed, never fancied the Overtown site and has been searching for a different, larger location.

In March, Miami suggested the city-owned golf course, located next to Miami International Airport and the Dolphin Expressway, as a potential alternative.

One of the commissioners who approved the referendum on Wednesday warned voters to be "skeptical" because "we have a history of bad deals in Miami," he told the Miami Herald, alluding to Miami Marlins' baseball stadium.

But Mas, who lost out to Derek Jeter's group on a chance to buy the Marlins, said he's doing everything he can to avoid repeating history.

Asked if the Marlins tainted stadiums in the city, Mas said: "Absolutely, and they've tainted this community with the amount of mistrust with anything having to do with this type of project.

"That's why, since the very beginning, I have always said this is to be the anti-Marlins deal and I've tried to do everything in a different fashion, a different way so that hopefully the confidence of the tax payers exhibited in the ballot box in November."

Mas' proposal will call for a 28,000-seat stadium on the site, for which the city should collect nearly $140 million in rent payments over 39 years, a rate of roughly $3.5 million annually. The group would pay an additional $20 million over 30 years to help fund a planned 58-acre park on the site.

They also want to bring a massive technology park to the site, as well as an underground parking facility, public soccer fields, 500 new hotel rooms, a conference center, retail stores, restaurants and more.

The Beckham franchise, when it gets going, will also bring a training center and an academy focused on developing local players to the Miami area. The remaining 58 acres at Melreese would be turned into a public park.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.