For now, soccer star Lionel Messi and his Inter Miami teammates play their home games at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
But on Tuesday, team owners — who include soccer legend David Beckham — announced they had broken ground on Miami Freedom Park earlier this month.
The expected opening date for the long-awaited 25,000-seat stadium: Sometime in 2025.
“I can’t wait to welcome our fans to our state-of-the-art stadium and hear the chants as Messi and your Inter Miami players take the pitch for the first time in 2025,” managing owner Jorge Mas said in a prepared statement.
An official groundbreaking ceremony will take place later this year.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis took the news in stride.
“The team had always contemplated building a stadium in Miami,” he said. “We continue to have a strong relationship with Inter Miami. We expect their administrative offices will remain at DRV PNK. We’re not saying goodbye to Inter Miami. We’re just sharing them.”
In Miami, voters approved a November 2018 referendum authorizing the city to negotiate a 99-year lease with Inter Miami’s owners to develop the city’s only publicly owned golf course, located just east of Miami International Airport and north of the Dolphin Expressway.
Nearly four years later, in April 2022, Miami commissioners approved the $1 billion deal. The city will collect $2.67 billion in rent over the course of the 99-year lease.
Miami Freedom Park will be a sprawling entertainment site with the stadium as its anchor. The 131-acre project calls for a 58-acre park, three hotels with a total of 750 rooms plus tech hub offices, shops and restaurants.
“With Inter Miami, my family set out to build something truly transformational,” Mas said in a statement on Tuesday. “In just four years we have changed the perception worldwide of American soccer. As we commence construction of Miami Freedom Park, that same vision guides us. In creating a multi-faceted space, we will set a new standard of what sport complexes can be. We look forward to delivering a food and entertainment destination for families to enjoy year-round.”
Messi mania has sparked renewed interest in both the sport and the team.
“The level of attention and the influx of inquiries we are receiving have been incredible, a testament to the positive impact of Lionel Messi on Inter Miami CF and the city of Miami,” said Devon McCorkle, president of Miami Freedom Park. “Everyone wants to be part of what we’re creating, a new entertainment district that will be the centerpiece of family activities and experiences in Miami. We are in discussions with stadium sponsors, hotel brands, major attractions operators, restaurant groups, cultural institutions and many other exciting potential partners. We will deliver an incredible home for them at Miami Freedom Park.”
Hollywood soccer fan Steve Williams has one message for the team’s owners: Get it done.
“Look, they have done everything they need to do to make us — South Florida — the most important part of Major League Soccer, even on the international stage. Everyone wants to see Messi at games. The fan reaction is ‘Get it done.’ There’s no tomorrow. You’ll never get this chance again.”
What happens when the super star leaves?
Williams, for one, isn’t worried.
South Florida has the chance to do what Tampa did when they brought in Tom Brady, Williams said.
“Teams that raise the bar keep raising the bar,” he said. “Miami has a chance of becoming a success story and building on Messi. It’s not all about Messi. It starts with Messi. David Beckham and his group have done what they said they were going to do. They’ve changed the dynamic.”
Susannah Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me at @Susannah_Bryan