Inter Miami's Proposed Stadium Site Closed Following Toxic Soil Samples
The closure of Melreese Country Club was ordered yesterday, one day after an environmental analysis "revealed high levels of arsenic and other pollutants in the soil" at the proposed site for MLS expansion club Inter Miami CF's stadium, according to a front-page piece by Flechas & Brasileiro of the MIAMI HERALD. Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez said that he closed Melreese in an "abundance of caution to do more analysis." However, one skeptical commissioner "suspects environmental concerns are being used as an excuse to drum up support for Miami Freedom Park." The proposed $1B complex "could replace Melreese with a soccer stadium, mall, office and 58-acre public park." Gonzalez' decision to temporarily close the site "marks another controversial moment in an effort that has long been riddled with unexpected twists and intense scrutiny." The environmental report, funded by Inter Miami Managing Owner Jorge Mas' group, was done as the city "negotiates a no-bid lease with Mas to redevelop Melreese into the mall-stadium complex." Melreese has "long been known as a contaminated site that sits atop of layer of toxic ash dumped there from an old municipal incinerator." The news of contamination is "being viewed by skeptics as a bargaining chip Mas could use to push for a more favorable lease." Gonzalez' decision "rankled at least one Miami commissioner who suspects that as negotiations continue, the concerns about Melreese's contamination are part of a play to devalue the land and therefore lower rent payments to the city" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/21).
EXTENDED STAY? In Ft. Lauderdale, Olmeda & Wallman report it "remained unclear" yesterday whether the contamination at the Melreese site was "substantial enough to force Inter Miami to extend its plans for regular-season play" at the city's Lockhart Stadium beyond the current two-year schedule. There are "no restrictions preventing" Inter Miami from playing in Ft. Lauderdale "for the entire 50 years" of its deal. Inter Miami is "building an 18,000-seat stadium and 50,000-square-foot training facility" at the Lockhart Stadium site. Ft. Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said that he "didn't anticipate the issues in Miami to have 'any impact to our project'" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 8/21).