Miami-Dade County to re-study airport impacts of soccer stadium project
Miami Commissioners signed off on the city's biggest sports development deal since Marlins Park. Image via ARQUITECTONICA/ArquitectonicaGEO/MANICA.

Miami Freedom Park rendering ARQUITECTONICA-ArquitectonicaGEO-MANICA
A February 2021 report found parts of the project could cause 'significant hazard and practical difficulties.'

Miami-Dade County commissioners are demanding an update to a year-old report analyzing how a possible soccer stadium mega-complex on the nearby Melreese golf course could impact operations at Miami International Airport (MIA).

Talk of the proposed 131-acre Miami Freedom Park and Soccer Village development — which would include a 25,000-seat stadium, practice fields, multiple hotels and 600,000 square feet of commercial and office space, among other large pieces — has been ongoing since 2018.

While approval of the project falls exclusively to the City of Miami, which owns Melreese, several county departments joined the agency that runs the airport last year to note safety, traffic and commercial concerns.

A February 2021 analysis of plans for the project showed half of the stadium’s eight points would violate height standards for buildings near MIA and could obstruct flights in and out of the hub’s longest runway.

County personnel also cited concerns of “large, luminous panels and glowing lights” throughout the project, including an illuminated stadium roof that could imperil planes by creating “significant hazard and practical difficulties” for pilots and air traffic controllers.

They also listed worries over airspace conflicts from signage, fireworks and stadium-related aircraft like blimps and drones; radio, electrical and navigational interference; roadway conflicts found in a 2019 traffic study; and further aerial obstruction by cranes during the complex’s construction.

The county’s prior report noted a potential “reduction in MIA’s air traffic capacity due to potential airspace restrictions during sporting and other events” and “aircraft operational impacts during the prolonged construction due to the presence of cranes within the arrival and departure paths of MIA’s longest runway, Runway 9-27.” Image via Miami-Dade County.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told Florida Politics in September those issues had since “been resolved to the satisfaction of the county” following “multiple conversations” with its prospective developers, MasTec executives Jose Mas and Jorge Mas, retired soccer star David Beckham and their other partners who own Major League Soccer team Inter Miami CF.

That appears not to be the case now.

On Tuesday, Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa proposed a motion, which the Commission approved, directing county Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s administration to update the prior report with new information. Both MIA and Melreese are inside Sosa’s district.

The report is due April 16, more than a month after the Miami City Commission is scheduled to decide whether to approve a 99-year lease with Inter Miami — a power Miami voters granted to the city in 2018.

Four-fifths of the Commission would have to approve the lease for it to go through. Since Commissioner Manolo Reyes has remained a vocal opponent of the deal “since day one,” every other Miami Commissioner would have to vote “yes” unless Reyes has a change of heart.

Melreese has long been managed by the De Lucca family, which in December secured a three-year lease extension from the city. Miami still has the power to terminate the contract to allow for redevelopment of the city-owned golf course.

While the city could OK the stadium deal without county input, the project would still need to clear county environmental, zoning and airport traffic flow reviews.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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