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Messi’s Arrival Poses Problems For Businesses in Ft. Lauderdale

The DRV PNK Stadium, home of Inter Miami CF, promised to bring business and growth to the area. But for some local residents, Messi Mania has made a mess of the neighborhood.

Cameron Priester

Sep 27, 2023

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Shelley isn’t a soccer fan. 

Though DRV PNK Stadium, home of Inter Miami CF, sits just over 500 feet from the Fort Lauderdale plumbing store where she works—Need a Plumber—she didn’t even know there was soccer played there.

That changed in July when Inter Miami made the landmark signing of Lionel Messi, bringing in droves of fans looking to catch a glimpse of the Argentinian superstar held by many as the greatest player of all time. 

For the club, the signing is already paying dividends—they’re undefeated in the four matches Messi’s appeared in, and the team’s value is expected to climb by 600%. But while many businesses are lining their pockets as Messi-mania sweeps across south Florida, ironically a number of the businesses closest to the stadium are losing money. 

“Before him, you never saw traffic, you never saw congestion,” complained Shelley, who asked to have her last name excluded to speak freely. “You never saw beer cans in the parking lot.” 

Several complaints were voiced that the hundreds of more fans coming into the stadium than before have forced them to spend game days warding off fans trying to illegally park and loiter around their businesses—one game Shelley walked outside of the store to a man with his feet propped up on her car, selling counterfeit Inter Miami jerseys. 

And on the following days, they’re left to deal with leftover trash littering the streets.

“We dread game days for sure,” said Jessica Patalan, owner of JD Driveline, an auto parts store which sits directly across NW 12th Ave from DRV PNK Stadium. 

Inter Miami’s signing of Messi—a contract worth up to $150 million over two and half years—represented a landmark win for the game of soccer in the United States. 

His utterly dominant 19-year career in Europe firmly secured his place in the conversation with the greatest soccer players of all time. Now, he finds himself in Major League Soccer (MLS) that has long been considered amateur compared to the European leagues where he spent most of his career, and his impact is already being felt.

Ticket prices to Inter Miami matches on secondary market services skyrocketed more than 1000%, according to ESPN. In the three days after his signing was announced, according to fan apparel site Fanatics, Inter Miami was the top-selling team across all sports. The first 24 hours of his jersey sales were the most profitable 24 hours of any player changing teams across all sports.

In 2022 Inter Miami had the lowest attendance in MLS, averaging 12,637 fans per game. Since his debut, however, the average attendance to Inter Miami home games has already risen to 19,822.

“The riff raff starts at 10 a.m. even though the game doesn’t start until like seven o'clock at night,” said Patalan. “Our employees can’t park, our customers can’t park, we can’t park.”

But business is disrupted by more than parking woes. 

“And then we have people that are constantly in and out or trying to use the bathroom or looking for shade because they’re lingering, or I guess what you would call tailgating,” said Patalan. 

Across the street, John Gorgalis, owner of Xtreme Countertops—which shares a parking lot with Need a Plumber, echoed the same complaints and added that some of the problems have tracked their way inside. 

“We get the partiers, people barbecuing in their trucks and we have our dumpsters out there, they’ll end up getting filled with trash, food, beer bottles,” said Gorgalis. “Sometimes after game days you can come back to a dumpster full of food, then I’m full of flies in the office.”

Patalan said they’ve taken measures—cones, gates, and a security guard—but added these are measures that come out of their own pocket.

“In order for us to keep them out, we have to have someone pretty much monitoring the parking lot at all times. Which comes out of our pockets,” said Patalan. “That just costs us money for something that we're not seeing back. It's just simply because of that stadium there.”

Courtesy of Inter Miami CF.

Not only are they having to dig into their own pockets to keep people away, they soon may have to dig even further down to keep their business in the same place.

“Rent has already gone up around the stadium. But I’m a warehouse, I don’t sell hot dogs or $35 beers, so what can we do with that? We’re a business that has nothing to do with the stadium,” said Gorgalis. “It hasn't hit me yet, but as soon as my lease is up I’m expecting a rent increase.”

Even less assuring for them is the fact that the havoc Messi has brought with him doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Messi’s dominance in MLS play, and ultra-lucrative contract, have many thinking he may get comfortable and find a new home at Inter Miami for years to come; which only means more of a nuisance for Patalan, Gorgalis, and the many other businesses around the stadium. 

“They want to up rent, just because he wants to be there… I’m just not a fan of the whole thing. Go to Miami. Take that s**t to Miami,” said Patalan. “He might be making billions, but we are not.”

This story was produced by MediaLab@FAU, a project of Florida Atlantic University's School of Communication and Multimedia Studies. If you would like to republish this article, please credit the writer and MediaLab@FAU. The reporter can be reached at

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