Sunday, March 3, 2013

Don Garber talks Miami MLS Expansion

Don Garber with Miami Ultras Supporters
(Courtesy of Football in Miami and Beyond)
UPDATE: I confirmed with Grant Wahl Monday that Garber and MLS were not trying to push the Miami effort publicly, simply trying to offer additional options to support stadium renovation.

If you were watching "Goals on Sunday" on Fox Soccer you may have caught the interview with Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber where he mentioned potential expansion to Miami in the near future.

MLS officials were in Miami last week meeting with Stephen Ross' group, owner of the Miami Dolphins, to see if an expansion franchise could be included as an incentive toward $400M in renovations to Sun Life Stadium.

Grant Wahl, lead soccer reporter for Sports Illustrated, took to Twitter later on Sunday reported that sources had disclosed Ross and MLS were both interested in securing a franchise for Miami to integrate the team into the stadium renovation plan.

Naturally, every soccer supporter in Central Florida stood up in unison and said, "What about us?" Relax Orlando City supporters, the writing on the wall is actually in your favor.

As Garber has stated countless times before, the only hurdle left for Orlando earning an expansion franchise is an approved soccer-specific stadium (SSS) plan. From all accounts, the team is working toward finalizing those plans by this June, thus putting Garber and MLS in a difficult situation.

In the last 10 years, in every situation where an ownership group has offered up an approved SSS plan, MLS has awarded an expansion franchise. You could potentially argue that Jeff Cooper's stadium plan for St. Louis was an exception, but that was hardly an approved plan and his group lacked the financial backing to meet MLS standards. When Orlando City comes to the table with their stadium plan, Garber and MLS will either have to award a franchise or go against their previous 10 years of growth.

As with most of these off the wall comments from Garber, there is usually a back story and this case is no exception. Stephen Ross is the chairman of The Related Companies, a major real estate holding and development company in New York City. One of the largest developments currently being designed in all of New York City is the Willets Point project located just to the north of Citi Field in Queens. Prior to Flushing Meadows being named the preferred location for MLS' second New York franchise, one of the other potential spots was at Willets Point. Guess who owns the rights to development at Willets Point? Correct, The Related Companies along with the Mets ownership group through their Sterling Equities group. You see, Garber and Ross have been working together for years on the NY2 stadium effort. And while the location and plan are still being finalized, there's no reason to think Garber wouldn't want to offer up another ownership option to his well funded business friend.

What really appears to be happening is Garber is trying to help a friend out of a jam when it comes to the Sun Life Stadium renovation costs by throwing around the proverbial sports carrot for South Florida soccer fans. Ross has asked the State of Florida for a sales tax rebate of $3M per year over the next 30 years to help offset his cost of the renovation through Senate Bill 308 (2013). Even with the best possible renovations to Sun Life Stadium it would have to be on the same success level as CenturyLink Field in Seattle for MLS to thrive in South Florida. With attendance being sub-par for all four professiona sports franchises in Miami this appears to just be another favor called in to help a stadium plan go through.

11 comments :

  1. The best OCSC supporters can do is turn out for the matches as that is the strongest statement. From Garber, it seems something substantive will be learned this summer unless the NY2 project stalls.

    Of course, it is ludicrous to consider Miami for the reasons stated: the history, stadium, and attendance. Also, in Miami, Ross seems more concerned with the Super Bowl and special, marquee events and to keep Dolphin fans somewhat happy.

    Yet, confidence in the commissioner to make a sound recommendation is tempered by a calamity simply called - Chivas.

    You've done a service to explain the machinations involved. It was great supporters responded to Grant Wahl. Not only to deride Miami as a prime choice, but to make more soccer insiders aware that Orlando City's support is very real.

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  2. Any true Fort Lauderdale Strikers supporter is right there with you Ed. Miami is a horrible place to put ANY pro soccer team, let alone one in a 75K football stadium that will draw 15K per game at the very best.

    If this is what Don wants to do, then screw MLS, screw Ross, and screw Miami.

    FTLTID

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    1. How do you think we feel, Derek? They're making us build an SSS, yet they're insinuating a full-scale football stadium is fine and dandy in Miami and Minneapolis (which are both horrible soccer cities).

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    2. Reeve you have no clue about Minneapolis. MSP had a good run in the original NASL and has had a succesful D2 team on occasion. That is way more than Orlando can say having never had a D1 soccer club. You might want to hold that attitude until MCO actually gets a SSS and MLS team. Right now everything in Orlando is vaporware except for the D3 club playing in the Citrus Bowl.

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  3. Yes, the Miami sports failures and fantasies are legendary.

    Your affiliation caused me to recollect in a more positive vein.

    Ft.Lauderdale Strikers professional soccer has a storied tradition. So many fun factoids. Wearing the red and orange - the former "most goals in a calendar year" holder (Mueller) to a colorful contemporary soccer commentator, former coach and player (Hudson). There was the Strikers' fine fan support: a 10-14K NASL average attendance. This was 35 years ago for a team that competed in one championship match.

    Thanks for the reply.

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  4. “Miami deserves to have a team. There are a lot of Hispanics in that area and I am sure they will make sure they will not lose the opportunity to support it. If they brought soccer back to San Jose then they have to do the same thing with Miami"
    Jorge Caamaño - Fox Sports/ Fox Deportes

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  5. I would love if there was a team in Miami and I am sure all the players would agree too"
    Andy Williams - Real Salt Lake 2005–2011

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  6. ^^Miami Fusion owner Ken Horowitz thought the same thing about the hispanic culture of Miami, and as it turns out they never really showed up. Jeffery Loria and the Marlins FO also thought that the Cuban culture in Miami would come and support baseball in full force too, and guess what? They didn't. You can't put the division 1 future of South Florida in the hands of the hispanic culture that has failed it time and time again. Also, Miami is a bandwagon town. When you're new or winning and you're the thing to do, then people show, but they are never long term fans. They will never buy season tickets, and they don't stick around very long. The Miami Heat are probably the best team to ever play the game of basketball, but yet the arena fills around halftime, and in 2007-08 when they won only 15 games the arena was empty. Does that sound like loyal, die hard fans to you?

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  7. The true test for OC is if they were in last place and pulling good attendance numbers.

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    Replies
    1. Which can be said for any team, in any sport, anywhere.

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  8. I believe what the Commisioner is doing with Miami is two fold. First he is helping out an old friend in Steve Ross. Second, I believe he is scouting for a new a home for Chivas USA. They have always said when it comes to southeast expansion they wanted to go in with two franchises. This would allow for this plan to be followed; an expansion team awarded to Orlando and the relocation of Chivas USA to Miami bringing back the Fusion.

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