Despite facing a slog of future negotiations with local politicians about where to put a new soccer-specific stadium in Miami, David Beckham is confident he knows where his team will end up when the deal is finally done.
Speaking during a press conference in Miami on Wednesday about his intent to bring a Major League Soccer expansion franchise to the city, Beckham insisted that while a deal will take time, any new facility will be built downtown.
“We want to build a stadium in Miami,” Beckham said. “The City of Miami and the people of Miami deserve a stadium that they’re proud of. And they deserve a stadium that’s in a great place. The commissioners and the mayor have promised us that we will be downtown.”
A league statement released on Wednesday stated that an agreement for a new stadium must be finalized in order for MLS to come to Miami. There is no timeline for when the team will join the league.
If built downtown, Miami’s future home would join a shift in Major League Soccer thinking to develop stadiums in more metropolitan areas, evidenced by the recent successes of sites in Seattle, Portland and Houston. Orlando City SC – the expansion franchise set to join the league next year – will also play in a newly constructed downtown stadium beginning in the summer of 2015.
“Football fans, soccer fans, they love to commute and walk, and I’m hoping that’s the same in Miami,” Beckham said. “Football fans, soccer fans love to walk to games as a community. I’ve seen what it’s like in Seattle and the fans, the passion that’s there. And I know that we’re going to have that here.”
There is no timeline set for when negotiations on a stadium site need to be completed, but both Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Beckham asserted that active talks have already begun, and the two sides met last week about 30 potential stadium sites.
Beckham said Wednesday that he’s eager to develop the same metropolitan stadium experience offered at American Airlines Arena, the downtown home of the NBA’s Miami Heat, but did not confirm any potential stadium sites.
It’s been reported numerous times that his group’s top focus is on developing the stadium on 25 acres of county-owned land at Biscayne Bay’s PortMiami. That site is connected to Downtown Miami by Port Boulevard, a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, and is less than a mile form the bustling commercial area that surrounds American Airlines Arena.
“We not only want them to create an iconic stadium, but also a great public space,” Gimenez said. “And if it’s somewhere in this area, to become an additional amenity to what is really happening here downtown. That stadium needs to part of the fabric of Miami.”
Beckham also confirmed that his ownership group – currently backed by longtime business partner Simon Fuller and Bolivian telecommunications billionaire Marcelo Claure – will foot the bill for the stadium, a commitment that drew applause from the crowd on Wednesday.
“We don’t want public funding. We will fund the stadium ourselves,” Beckham said. “That’s something that we have worked very hard to get to this stage, where we can fund the stadium ourselves.”