Soccer Stadium Plan Scores
By Lou Ortiz
An old landfill could become the mecca for international soccer matches in Miami-Dade County.
That, at least, is the hope of some county officials and commissioners who approved a resolution that outlines a general plan for transforming 47.33 acres at 9000 NW 58th St. into a regional soccer park.
Jose "Pepe" Diaz, prime sponsor of the resolution, told fellow commissioners last week that the resolution would allow the Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces to test the interest — through a request for proposals — of entities like the International Federation of Association Football "willing to partner with us for something in the future."
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football) is a 208-member association that every four years puts on the prestigious World Cup.
"We have been trying to attract major soccer and to one day have a team in our community," said Mr. Diaz, who also chairs the county’s sports commission. "This is us trying to be part of the world cycle of football and to bring it home."
Mr. Diaz said the county is not being asked to spend money on the general plan, but to allow the parks department to request proposals to garner interest, which in the long run could also create jobs.
"There is no money for this," he said, but it could potentially "provide for a huge environment to take place in our community."
But the resolution sparked the ire of Commissioner Javier Souto, who chairs the County Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee. Mr. Souto questioned the resolution and the director of the parks department, Jack Kardys.
"I am the chair of the parks committee and I don’t ever recall seeing this item in the parks committee, ever," Mr. Souto said. "I am very much pro-sports and I am very much pro-jobs. This is not a neighborhood park. This is a big deal… on top of a landfill."
"I have been creating and dealing with all sorts of parks," he said. "In an abundance of caution, I would like to call this before the committee. I think we need to be careful with all of this. What is the rush?"
"We need to protect the people first and the integrity of the system," Mr. Souto said. "I think we need to slow down the train a little bit."
Mr. Souto also took Mr. Kardys to task.
"Why didn’t you ever mention this to me?" Mr. Souto asked Mr. Kardys. "I think this leaves you out on the limb. I deal with your department as chairman of the parks department. It was news to me."
Other commissioners defended Mr. Kardys, who said there were scores of issues in the parks department that he had not discussed with Mr. Souto.
"I can make a presentation at the next committee meeting," Mr. Kardys told Mr. Souto.
"You’ve been nothing but an outstanding professional," Commissioner Dennis Moss told Mr. Kardys. "You’re doing a great job."
Commission Chairman Joe Martinez said Mr. Kardys didn’t do anything wrong.
"The rules were followed here," Mr. Martinez said. "If you want to change the rules, change the rules for everybody. Don’t pick and choose. That’s my point of view if you’re talking about fairness."
"The RFPs [requests for proposals] will come back and go through committee and then to the BCC [board of county commissioners]," Mr. Martinez said.
Commissioner Lynda Bell agreed, adding that Mr. Kardys has always been professional. "This is part of the process," she said. "This is stage one in the multiplicity of stages."
Ms. Bell also said that while the soccer site was previously a landfill, whoever decides to develop the area would have to abide by environmental regulations and clean it up. She and Commissioner Sally Heyman noted that other parks in the county had once been landfills.
In 1952, the property was part of a larger parcel of land that was used as a landfill, according to county documents.
"You take a dirty piece of land and make them clean," Ms. Bell said.
"It can be done safely," Ms. Heyman added.
The general development plan for the proposed soccer park, which passed by a 10-1 vote with Mr. Souto dissenting, calls for:
nEight full-size soccer athletic fields, with one designed as a stadium.
nA stadium field house that would consist of grandstands, press boxes, lockers, coaches’ rooms, judges’ rooms, restrooms, equipment and storage areas, along with ticketing, cash management and offices.
nAn academy building for the south end to be used as a sports training facility and overnight lodging.
nA parking lot on the north side of the property that would lead into the park from Northwest 87th Avenue and Northwest 58th Street.
nAncillary structures such as concessions, pavilions and a maintenance yard.
"This is going out as an RFP," Mr. Diaz said.
According to the International Federation of Association Football website, the World Cup began in 1930 and has been played every four years, with exceptions in 1942 and 1946 because of World War II. For the 2014 World Cup, 204 entries from six continents are competing for 31 spots.
"The FIFA World Cup is the world’s most widely viewed sporting event," the website says. "An estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany and the 2010 event in South Africa was broadcast to 204 countries on 245 different channels."To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e -Miami Today, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.