Soccer stadium gets booted from Orange Bowl site plans
By Risa Polansky
A Major League Soccer stadium could still be part of the City of Miami's game plan for the old Orange Bowl site, but officials are taking a time out for now.
Soccer will have to wait until after the anticipated 2011 opening of a Marlins ballpark on the land now that a June deadline to line up a team came and went, said Larry Spring, city chief financial officer.
"We started, we had several conversations with MLS (Major League Soccer), but they have to go through their process" of awarding a franchise to the city and finding an owner, he said. "It's not something that's done in what I would call a very short time window of months" laid out in the February baseball agreement between the city, Miami-Dade County and the Marlins.
The agreement stipulates that the city can't begin constructing a soccer stadium until two years after the baseball park is complete if a soccer franchise was not granted by June 1 or if construction of the soccer stadium "cannot reasonably be expected to be completed" by 60 days after opening day in 2011.
Holding off on soccer will allow the baseball stadium to be built without other construction interfering, Mr. Spring said.
Still, "the city maintains its right to do the soccer stadium."
Officials intend also to develop retail and possibly a hotel on the Orange Bowl site.
"We want to make that a super-viable location. We want to create jobs," he said.
But plans for the added developments remain internal and preliminary, Mr. Spring said, as the priority now is working toward the Marlins stadium and a 6,000-car parking garage.
The developers of Wynwood's Midtown Miami in October reached out to the city to pitch ideas for redeveloping the site and neighborhood around the Orange Bowl.
Representatives of Developers Diversified Realty met with city staffers to express interest in "creating a redevelopment plan for this venue and surrounding neighborhood," wrote Daniel Herman, senior vice president of development, in an e-mail to city officials last year.
According to the letter, the company planned "to spend some of our own time and energy to see if we could offer some suggestions."
Mr. Spring said the city isn't working with "anyone specific" on site development now.
He noted that the old Orange Bowl is gone, and "minor environmental issues" on the site have been addressed.
"We're moving through the process as it's laid out in the BSA (baseball stadium agreement) framework."
County officials also maintain baseball plans are on track.
Miami-Dade Commission Chairman Bruno A. Barreiro said last week that both county and team officials have indicated construction and management negotiations should be complete by month's end.
County attorneys have advised waiting to pitch the new agreements to the commission until after a pending lawsuit from car dealer and activist Norman Braman is heard.
Mr. Braman is fighting against the city and county's mega-package of major projects — including the Marlins stadium — set to be backed largely by redevelopment dollars and tourist taxes.
The hearing is set for Tuesday (7/1).
County Manager George M. Burgess also said late last month that plans for the baseball stadium are on schedule.