Sep 23, 2022 - News

Critics organize to fight proposed UM stadium at Tropical Park

Miami mascot Sebastian the Ibis gestures on the field, wearing an orange jersey.

University of Miami mascot Sebastian the Ibis at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sept. 10. Photo: Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Miami residents, alarmed at the prospect of losing public parkland, are organizing to fight Miami billionaire John H. Ruiz's plan to build a football stadium for the University of Miami at Tropical Park.

What's happening: Residents and neighbors have set up a website, called "Save Tropical Park," along with an online petition and social media accounts to raise issues about the stadium proposal and pressure lawmakers.

  • "We're up to, I want to say, 2,200 petition signatures in about a week," Amanda Prieto, who is helping spearhead the effort, told Axios.
  • "Best-case scenario, he moves on to a different property — buys private property, where he could have the absolute best stadium in the world," Prieto said. "I'm not going to support it on public land."

Catch up fast: Ruiz, a lawyer whose firm deals with health care insurance claims, has vowed to build a stadium for the university with private dollars but wants to lease land at Miami-Dade County's Tropical Park, which is three miles from the UM campus in Coral Gables.

Between the lines: Ruiz told Local 10 last month he hopes to mirror the process the Inter Miami soccer stadium developers used to gain approval to build at the publicly owned Melreese Country Club.

  • In that case, laws required that a public referendum be held on whether the private entity is allowed to lease city land. Voters approved, and more particulars, such as lease terms and zoning changes, were later approved by the city commission.
  • Ultimately, the owners of Miami's Major League Soccer team secured a 99-year lease.
  • Tropical Park is owned by the county, not the city, but a referendum would probably be required if Ruiz were to submit his proposal.

What they're saying: County Commissioner Javier Souto released a statement Wednesday opposing private development at the site, saying that "strange forces are trying to take control of Tropical Park … thus destroying this marvelous enclave of joy, happiness, and health."

Ruiz defended his plans on Twitter on Thursday, saying they'll improve, not destroy, the park.

  • "75% to 85% remains intact as it relates to fields and greenery, simply revamped," Ruiz wrote. "The real question is who wouldn't want a revitalized Tropical Park?"

Neither Souto nor Ruiz responded to Axios' requests seeking comment.


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