Soccer scored a big victory over golf Nov. 6, as Miami voters approved plans for a professional soccer stadium at the site of the International Links Melreese Country Club.
The Miami Herald reported that roughly 60 percent of voters abandoned the city's only municipal course in favor of Miami Freedom Park, a stadium, park and commercial development backed by David Beckham and his business associates. The 73-acre redevelopment would include a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium, at least 750 hotel rooms and roughly one million square feet of office, retail and commercial dwellings. Funding a 58-acre park was also part of the deal. All the land will be leased from the city.
Melreese - where LPGA star Cristie Kerr learned the game and current Web.com Tour pro Erik Compton practices - isn't dead yet. Four of five votes are required from the city council before it can move forward. At least two commissioners have gone on record against the proposal.
"It's a bad deal," Commissioner Willy Gort told the Herald. "It's a real estate deal, and they're using the stadium as a hook."
Soccer supporters couldn't have been more enthusiastic about the news. MLS Commissioner Don Garber told the Herald that Tuesday was a "historic day for the sport in our country, and another building block in our vision to become a soccer nation."
Beckham added: "The hurdles are not over. We still have things to clear up over these next few years, but I think we're in a good place."
Could your local muni be on the line next?
If you don't live or play golf in Miami, this vote doesn't affect you, right? Wrong. As land values in big cities rise - and the perception that golf is floundering endures - your municipal golf course could be the next to be targeted for redevelopment. It's a fight that could be coming to a downtown golf course near you.
For now, play will continue at Melreese, a 7,173-yard, par-71 course where Tiger Woods once held a clinic for a grand reopening after renovation work in the 1990s. Melreese is home to the First Tee Miami youth golf program, the University of Miami women's golf team, as well as the men's teams from Barry University and Johnson and Wales University.
Carlos Rodriguez, an executive board member of the First Tee Miami, said the vote didn't come as a surprise, but it was "disappointing".
"We have a $2-million-dollar center that's only six years from a ribbon cutting," he said. "It's a shame we have to recreate that somewhere else."
Melreese, a Dick Wilson design dating to 1961, features five lakes that come into play on 14 holes. The course has nearly as many one-star reviews (five) as four-star reviews (six) on Golf Advisor, but many of those complaints are for slow play or minor operational issues. For those who catch it on a good day, they tend to love the experience, which gets a steady five stars from most players.
The latest review from user Stourma dished out five stars, writing: "Great course! Fairways were immaculate and the greens should match in a couple of weeks. Pace of play was a bit slow, but weather played a part, so understandable. The 19th hole was great and service was friendly. Wish I would have found this gem sooner."
Chime in: If you lived in Miami, how would you have voted? Do you have a muni near you under siege? Let us know in the comments below.