Thursday, December 13, 2007

MLS Expansion - Is a team in Miami just a few votes away?

The idea of moving back into Florida might make a few MLS fans a bit squeamish as it didn't go so well the first time around, but if a few votes workout, it might just happen.

The City of Miami is looking into funding a new soccer and baseball stadium on the current sight of the historic Orange Bowl (which will be torn down) as part of a multibillion-dollar proposal put forth by Mayor Manny Diaz.

As far as the soccer stadium, it would cost $100 million and seat 25,000. The proposal calls for the cost to be divided between the city and MLS (or whomever owns a new Miami team). However, the main reason the city is interested in building the soccer stadium is to provide an additional funding source for a 6,000-car parking garage they will need to build for a baseball stadium as Diaz said they need 25 additional events annually for the garage to break even.

This whole proposal, which includes many, many things not related to these stadiums, faces its first vote today as the Miami commissioners decide whether to move the multilayered plan forward. If they do, they will begin to review major pieces of the plan next Tuesday. As part of the funding plan, the city will not float bonds to pay for any of this, so it will not face voter approval (how happy is Don Garber to hear that?).

If this does happen and the city votes for a soccer stadium, it is pretty safe to say MLS will show up soon after and that might not be a frightening as it sounds.

Back when the Miami Fusion were in the league (1998-2001) they had some weak attendance numbers, but was in large part due to them playing at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, some 26-miles away. If a new team went into the Orange Bowl site, they would be in the heart of the city, about a mile from downtown. This does not mean they will be a success, but it does provide them with a better chance then playing in Ft. Lauderdale.

As with any proposal that involves public money, who knows what might happen, but it does seem like the mayor is pushing hard for this. I don't have a clue if this is a good thing in the long run for the people of Miami, but if you are a soccer fan in the area, you are probably happy to see this taking place.

But how does this influence the possible expansion of the league into St. Louis or Philadelphia? I don't think it has any affect on the league in the next couple months as no ownership group has officially stepped forward and a final decision on the funding might not be known for some time. However, Miami would provide a very temping pick for the next round of expansion, especailly if the league put in $50 million towards building the facility, which makes the competition for the 17th and 18th teams that much more intense.

One final thing, some people have suggested calling the new soccer stadium the Orange Bowl, which seems like a fantastic idea to me.

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