Miami Marlins' goal: top-tier soccer
By Meisha Perrin
The first soccer match to be held at the new $525 million county-owned Marlins Park in Little Havana will be a Nov. 14 international friendly game between Venezuela and Nigeria.
But that is only the beginning of soccer, and events in general, at the stadium if all goes as planned, according to Sean Flynn, senior vice president of marketing and event-booking for the Miami Marlins, whose owners control stadium use and revenues.
Marlins Park officials are looking to hold world-class soccer at the venue, he said — and with an international friendly just around the corner, the idea is very real.
There is "great interest" in having soccer at the stadium, Mr. Flynn said. "Miami is a great soccer market — one of the best in the US. The interest for world-class soccer events is high."
In January, the stadium will be hosting its first tournament-like event, Miami Soccer Challenge between European club teams and Central/South American club teams that are still being discussed, and they are looking to have more of those through out the year, Mr. Flynn said.
Moving forward, the Miami Soccer Challenge could potentially be a tournament that includes 14 teams, and the goal is to broadcast the matches internationally, Mr. Flynn said.
Essentially, he said, officials want to have games not only in January, but also at other times throughout the year when the Marlins are not using the stadium for baseball.
"I think that there is public here [for soccer] — especially Latin American," Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said. "It will give the stadium another life after the [baseball] season."
Last month, the city welcomed representatives from Argentinean Club soccer team Boca Juniors, one of the most successful soccer teams in the world, who toured the stadium and expressed interest in having a tournament there in the future.
The Argentinean team, according to Mr. Regalado, who went with representatives to look at the stadium, wants a presence in Miami.
"They were dazzled by the stadium," he said.
Although neither the city nor Miami-Dade County gets any money from events at Marlins Park, the success of the stadium is good for Miami's international image and economy, according to Mr. Regalado.
During his travels to future potential sister city Madrid, Mr. Regalado said he spoke to the president of Spanish Club Team Atlético Madrid, which also is interested in seeing the new stadium.
"These teams understand that the US is a big market. They see the growth of soccer. The same thing the [Miami] Heat did with China, they want to do in Miami," he said.
And if a team visits with the US, they will use rooms in hotels, rent cars, move around — and all of these things will help the economy, he said.
"It's not only a win for the Marlins. It's a win for us, too. It brings people to the city."
Mr. Flynn, who books the events for the building and has been working with promoters and teams to bring such events to the stadium, said future stadium events won't be limited to sports.
"We always knew this building would be used for a number of events beyond baseball," Mr. Flynn said. "Soccer, we thought, would be the biggest opportunity because of Miami and the fan base in Florida for soccer."
"We want to use [the stadium] for many other events."
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