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Inter Miami's new Freedom Park

Former England captain David Beckham is pressing ahead with plans to launch a 25,000-seater stadium called Freedom Park in Miami. The Man Utd legend has teamed up with MasTec chairman Jorge Mas to launch Inter Miami, an MLS expansion team that will make their debut next year. However, they do not yet have an official home and they will initially play at Lockhart Stadium, the ground that formerly housed the now-defunct Miami Fusion. That is only supposed to be a temporary arrangement lasting until 2022, by which time Beckham and Mas want Freedom Park to be up and running.

Beckham is keen for Inter Miami to challenge for glory during the very first year of the new club’s existence. You only have to look at Atlanta United one of the favorites at different sportsbooks to win next year MLS cup, to see the sort of immediate success and expansion franchise can enjoy, and the team behind Inter Miami have displayed similar levels of ambition. Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti has been targeted as a coach, along with former Man Utd manager David Moyes, while James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Mario Mandzukic have all been linked with a move to Miami. Right now Inter Miami are not among the favorites for MLS Cup glory, but that could all change as big names arrive in Florida.

Yet they need a stadium befitting their ambition. Plans to build it at PortMiami were thwarted after Miami-Dade County commissioners voted 11–1 against building the stadium following opposition from local businesses. A site at Museum Park was rejected due to a dispute over rent, while a planned move to Little Havana did not come to fruition. Beckham’s group secured a contract to purchase a privately owned block in Overtown, but they ultimately decided that it was too small.

In July 2018, Beckham and Mas revealed plans for the 25,000-seat stadium at Freedom Park. The plan is to make it part of a larger complex built on 73 acres of city-owned land, currently Melreese golf course, which would also feature offices, retail stores, bars, restaurants, a 750-room hotel and public football pitches. This summer, Beckham announced a proposed launch date of 2022 after 60% of voters gave the project the green light in a referendum.

However, in August the project hit a snag. Miami Mayor confirmed a recent report that soil contamination at Melreese golf course, the proposed site for the stadium, was far worse than previously thought, with arsenic contamination levels that are more than twice what is allowed by law and barium and lead levels that are too high, plus debris in the soil that could cause hazards.

However, Inter Miami’s legal team and engineers have been locked in meetings with city commissioners and staff about the various work needed to redevelop the site. The club confirmed it is working with the city on a “remediation plan that is thorough, and provides residents and visitors a destination that is safe for all to enjoy”. A deal for the site, which would involve a no-bid 99-year lease on the $1 billion development, has not yet been completed.

It has been met with opposition, but the team continues to press ahead. This month Miami commissioners decided they will not consider a lease until at least December 12. By that point, commissioner Wifredo Gort – a staunch opponent of the plans – will no longer have his seat. Some local residents say the initial referendum was misleading, but those that voted for the development say their wishes should be respected.

Both sides will keep a close eye on developments over the next month or two. In the meantime, Inter Miami will play their home games at the 18,000-seat Lockhart Stadium in neighboring Fort Lauderdale, which is not an ideal situation for the city of Miami. Yet fans should be treated to some entertaining football, with Beckham determined to secure A-list talent for his project. He knows the league well following a lengthy stint at LA Galaxy during the twilight of his stellar career, and he also has the pulling power to attract big names to the MLS. Miami is a fantastic city and it is likely that some top players from the European game will be persuaded to join the revolution. The next stage will be building out Freedom Park, and then turning Lockhart Stadium into a training complex, so there is a lot of work ahead for Beckham and Mas.

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