Arguably the most controversial issue in front of the Village City Council last week wasn’t even listed on the agenda. Word filtered out into the community that the contract to run the Key Biscayne Soccer Club – a service that touches numerous families on the island – had been put out to bid.
About 1,000 kids participate in the Key Biscayne Soccer Club which has been run in some capacity by Marcelo Radice, president and executive director of business operations since 2010. Radice is also the general manager for Florida International University athletics.
The program is renowned, capturing youth soccer championships, No. 1 rankings and generating professional talent like Benjamin Cremaschi, who plays for Inter Miami alongside Lionel Messi.
Radice said he would be available for comment later Wednesday. The program he runs had plenty of support at the Nov. 14 council meeting when at least five residents came forward during public comment, taking Council members by surprise on the issue.
Two residents who spoke said they were concerned that the new Request for Proposals made changes to the current contract that lowered expectations for the program. They questioned the motive for putting the soccer program up for bid in the first place.
“I don’t understand why they change the rules of the game all of a sudden,” said Eduardo von Simson. He said the Village could pick any number of contracts up for review, but “picking this one – the most successful one –I don’t know.”
Monica Ordonez told the Council she has two boys, 13 and 15, who are presently in the soccer club and praised the program. “It really has given our kids a sense of belonging, which is priceless,” she said.
She said many of the kids are developing into stellar soccer players and ready to take the next step. “Changing management right now and leaving these kids – let’s say my son just starting high school next year – with a different path would be very, very sad.”
Lucas Jaramillo – a pro soccer manager in Colombia – said the program is not perfect and has room for improvement, but has done well managing the league considering the dearth of field time and space in the Village. “I think they’re on a very good path,” he said.
Village Manager Steve Williamson said that the staff has been directed to look at all contracts and put them up for bid, whether they be concessions, custodial or soccer. The RFP for the soccer club went public 1½ months ago.
The RFP calls for a two-year contract with an option for the Village to extend the contract for three one-year renewal terms for a maximum of five years.
The fees to the Village also will change with Key Biscayne. Under the RFP, the Village will receive the entire balance of a 20% surcharge for non-resident fees. Also part of the contract stipulates that 10% of the gross revenue will be paid to the Village for the first-two years of agreement with an option to increase this percentage in years three to five.
Applicants will be evaluated by a committee – yet to be chosen – consisting of two members of the Village Athletics Advisory Board, staff and an excerpt in soccer youth leagues from outside the island. The current contractors will operate through the end of the current soccer season in June.
Vice Mayor Allison McCormick said putting out a contract up for a bid is not a reflection on a current vendor but shows the Village’s commitment to improve services and be fair and inclusive. She mentioned that the concessions at the Community Center will be under new stewardship.
She said the community doesn’t need to be fearful that “something else is afoot. “We’re doing this for every single contract,” she said.