Though commissioners worry, some neighbors of proposed Miami Freedom Park disagree

Just a few weeks ago, Miami-Dade commissioners raised significant concern about the impact that David Beckham’s new soccer stadium, which will also include commercial establishments, will have on Grapeland Heights near Melreese Country Club.

“Something like this — to bring not only the stadium, but hotel, businesses, restaurants — you’re talking about a big impact to my residents, and a big impact to the environment,” Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said. “And you’re talking about a safety issue…We need to make sure we… have a say in something that can bring so many problems.”

In the neighborhood, the proposed Miami Freedom Park, which one day may house the Inter Miami CF soccer team, has both supporters and critics.

As he hoisted his clubs while entering the Melreese Country Club last week, Ronnie Davis, 35, recalled playing golf on the site 29 years ago. 

Davis, a regular golfer there, said he’s concerned about how much space the facility will take up. The 25,000 seat soccer stadium and commercial buildings planned for the site, he said, would spoil his youthful memories. 

“I believe that Melreese is truly a staple of junior golf in Miami,” he said. “Therefore, taking away green space from this country club to convert it into a commercial center would be awful.”

Others who live close to Melreese, just south of Miami International Airport, have vastly different opinions on the plan. 

The plan received a 60% approval in a Nov. 6, 2018 referendum, allowing the city of Miami to negotiate a lease with the team. 

Almost seven years ago, former soccer player David Beckham won approval for the Major League Soccer team in Miami. He is also a co-owner and the president of the soccer team Inter Miami CF. Along with partners including business magnate Jorge Mas, he proposed several locations for his team to play, finally settling on Melreese, one of few golf courses in the city of Miami. 

The proposed stadium plan involves not just the 2,500-seat stadium, but 400,000 square feet of office, 750 hotel rooms, 600,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, a 128,000 square foot pedestrian walkway, a pedestrian bridge to the Miami Intermodal Center and 5,400 parking spaces.

In exchange for approval, Beckham and Mas agreed to include a 58-acre public park, the removal of contaminants from its land at no cost and a one-mile bicycle path around the project. They will also contribute $42.7 million in annual tax revenue, as well as a donation of $5 million toward the City’s Baywalk-Riverwalk project.

Miami-Dade County commissioners organized a meeting on March 16 with officials from the Miami-Dade Aviation Department to discuss the concerns that have arisen about the effects the Miami Freedom Park will have on the Miami International Airport.

After this meeting, the plans for this new construction were sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for review. The county wants to assure this new construction doesn’t pose any safety threats to air traffic. No decisions have been taken yet, as the developers are currently revising their plans to gain approval.

Mas sounded very optimistic that the county would approve the plan in a statement last June. 

“With the goal of following through on the will of Miami voters, we are submitting the Miami Freedom Park zoning application so it can be reviewed as we continue to advance lease agreement negotiations,” he said.

But some neighbors of the proposed location were less optimistic. 

Xavier Molina, 37, who has been playing golf at Melreese for 10 years, said he is discontent with the plan because it would take land away from the country club. He is also worried that traffic might negatively affect the Grapeland Baseball Park, which he has been taking his son to for three years. 

“As an avid golfer, I know that we are extremely limited on golf courses in the area and Melreese is an excellent one so it would truly be a travesty if we lost it,” he said. “I also don’t believe that this area could sustain an increase in traffic with its current infrastructure, which will highly affect people that regularly attend the baseball park.”

But others believe that when it comes to making a decision for a neighborhood, long-term benefits should be a deciding factor.

Denise Galvez Turros, 43, has been routinely taking her son, who is part of a baseball team, to the Grapeland Baseball Park for four years. She has been actively listening to the opinions of people around the area about this construction, as she is on the board of the city of Miami Historic and Preservation. She said that although she believes that green space should be protected, this plan is a great opportunity for the neighborhood to flourish by positively contributing to the economy. 

“As someone who goes to the Grapeland Baseball Park every week, I’m not really worried about traffic because increases in traffic are unavoidable,” she said. “Progress and development shouldn’t be halted over these concerns.”

Others said the belief that the stadium will create economic development outweighs the existing concerns.

Joanny Calvo, 42, has been living in Grapeland Heights for 36 years. He is very proud of his neighborhood and wants it to prosper.

“I honestly believe that it will bring jobs to the area during both the construction and after it has been built due to the many facilities and amenities it will have,” he said. “When it comes to traffic, I’m not largely concerned because on LeJeune Road, there will always be traffic, but there is a Metrorail access nearby.” 

Certainly, the neighbors around the Melreese Country Club are not in agreement and the new addition would definitely bring new changes to the neighborhood.

Davis emphasized that opinions from everyone associated with this neighborhood should be taken into consideration when building the stadium. 

“The construction of the Miami Freedom Park is ultimately a decision both the entire Grapeland Heights neighborhood and the elected officials should agree on,” Davis said. 

Shantel Sanchez is a senior at Florida International University studying to become a broadcast journalist. She enjoys traveling and going to the beach with her family. Another one of her passions is marketing, as she enjoys learning about the field and the strategies that are used.