The City of Miami is seriously considering a proposal to approve the leasing and redevelopment of public land that is currently occupied by International Links Miami – Melreese Country Club for use as a soccer  complex housing David Beckham’s new MLS franchise.

The City of Miami officials and commissioners are elected by the people and should work for all the people. Their job is not limited to seeking out the big romantic money. Community is not all about the money. We, as a community, want a great quality of life. We, as a community, want and demand green space for many different uses. We don’t want more false promises from big business.

International Links Miami – Melreese Country Club is the only golf course in the City of Miami. Its restaurant, practice facility, golf course, and learning center provide a unique community hub and it is nationally renowned.

Miami has recently spent $6,500,000 dollars on Melreese’s new clubhouse, its learning center, and on the remediation of the polluted land. In addition, The Deluccas just rebuilt the entire golf course. Are you now throwing away all those tax dollars? Did we not do that already by knocking down a $60,000,000 arena after only ten years of use?

The PGA now hosts an annual international event at Melreese, The Tour Championship for the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, bringing the world to Miami.

There are 35,000 local, regional, and international golfers who play golf on this wonderful course. How can you take this away from them? How can you take this usable green space away? Why not just build on all the tennis courts, all the ballfields, and all the other parks in Miami? They don’t make money! Why not put several hotels in front of City Hall, in Kennedy Park?

Let’s not talk about losing money, since every public golf course loses money. Melreese is run by the City of Miami. The budget comes from the city and is approved by the city. Let’s not blame DeLucca Enterprises in this political spin with false figures. Audited financial statements show that they have only lost money when renovating the golf course and, even then, it was nominal.

Do our other parks make money? NO, they are budgeted and expensed yearly for green space, to provide for a better quality of life for the community. This is no different. Green is what some of our taxes pay for. I pay taxes and I want a city golf course close to my Miami home in Coconut Grove.

International Links Miami – Melreese Country Club, with the leadership of Charles DeLucca, Jr. and his son, Charles DeLucca, III, assist 5,000 kids a year through multiple programs with their creative and dedicated staff, many of whom have worked with them for 25 years, as well as numerous fulltime volunteers who work for free.

They created “Charlie’s Kids” and then joined the International Professional Golfer’s Organization called the “The First Tee”. Their local program is the model for The First Tee programs nationwide. Every chapter sends representatives to visit their program, to learn from what they have done and what they have accomplished for the children.

The DeLuccas launched academic, as well as health and wellness programs for all kids of all ages, well before anyone else did. They were and continue to be the model. Don’t demean your local heroes with political rhetoric and spin. It’s all about the kids with the DeLuccas! Their disability program, with the Sandra DeLucca Disability Center is one of a kind. They take the disadvantaged and continue to assist them when other programs throw them out due to their age. This community is behind the DeLuccas, because they help their kids. The golf is secondary!

They offer numerous educational programs, including tutoring programs, health choice programs, and mentoring programs. Eighty-two percent (82%) of the students they serve are students on free/reduced meal programs and cannot pay. They pay for them.

These programs include: The Stem Learning Program, which offers daily tutoring, computer programs, and college resume assistance; The National School Program, which trained over 80 elementary school teachers under the “Snag Program”; The Young Women’s Preparatory Academy, which helps teenage girls, with the support from the Orange Bowl Committee; The Drive for Excellence Program, which partners with the Orange Bowl Committee; A Mentor/Mentee Program, which partners with numerous prestigious law firms throughout the City of Miami; The Special Olympics for 2,500 Miami-Dade public school kids that qualify to participate; HOPE (Help Our Patriots), which assists wounded veterans and welcomes them to the facility; LPGA USGA Girls Programs, which teach the 5 E’s; Year-round professional golf clinics for folks who can’t afford them, free of charge; College scholarship programs with Miami-Dade Community College, through the Wolfson Foundation; Programs with FIU professors to teach study skills and time management; College admission counseling and other college bound programs.

International Links Miami – Melreese Country Club is run like an international family. It has taken 40 years to create, millions of dollars to build, billions of hours of volunteer time to mold, and it has touched thousands and thousands of children and adults alike. Why would you take this from our community?

What are the facts in this proposed give away? There are many unanswered questions. Who is Miami Freedom Park, LLC that the city wants to entrust with a $200,000,000 property? Have they reviewed their financials? Do they have personal guarantees? How much will the City of Miami spend building the “new park” and where will that money come from? How much will it cost?

Is the $20,000,000 promised over 30 years guaranteed by anyone? What will the City of Miami do when they stop payments, as others did on Watson Island? Why are there not any set increases in the lease now, before it goes to vote? Why does the proposed lease say, including but not limited to? We all know they will build much more square footage than proposed, perhaps as much as 5,000,000 square feet!

Who will clean up the property for development when it is made public that this land is contaminated for the proposed uses? Are they putting the City of Miami on the hook for millions and millions of dollars in remediation costs? No bank will loan them money on contaminated land.

Soccer is the talk; but they publicly said, “Soccer will lose money”. (Yep, just like football, baseball, basketball, and hockey do.)

The City of Miami will be giving to the rich and taking from the poor if they approve this redevelopment proposal. I appeal to them. Don’t do this! Don’t give the largest green space in Miami, used by thousands, to concrete! Don’t leave our kids and future kids behind. Don’t steal what is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity for these kids for a private venture again. Think about the kids!!!

Daniel Baumgard, Miami Voter