He’s gone up against the toughest bruisers and tactical minds in world soccer. But even for David Beckham, bringing Major League Soccer to Miami was a monumental challenge.
Soccer fans drowned out the sounds of Gloria Estefan’s “Conga” at the Adrienne Arsht Cente Monday as they prepared for the official launch of the franchise, brought to the city by Beckham and his partners – Marcelo Claure, Jorge and Jose Mas, and Simon Fuller. The group was joined onstage at the Knight Concert Hall by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
“The thing that I know and the thing that I tell my children is that things get difficult sometimes,” Beckham said. “The one thing in four years that’s kept me going is you guys,” he added, in a nod to the horde of fans.
After going through multiple sites, including failed bids at PortMiami, in downtown Miami and Little Havana, the investment group is focused on making Overtown work, Beckham told WPLG. In June, the county approved the $9 million land sale of 3 acres in Overtown, part of an assemblage that also includes six privately owned acres the group paid $19 million for in 2016.
But the venture nearly fell apart about two months ago, Claure, the CEO of Sprint, said at the press conference. MLS owners were also reportedly critical of the discounted $25 million expansion fee that Beckham and his partners are paying.
“About 60 days ago, we were done. We were not going to do this,” he said, crediting the MasTec brothers Jorge and Jose Mas with being the missing link the franchise needed to move forward.
The 25,000-square-foot, $200 million stadium will be built on a nine-acre development site between Northwest Sixth and Eighth streets, north of the Miami River in Overtown. Three sites in Overtown were also pitched to Amazon for its second headquarters. Miami was announced as a finalist for the $5 billion development last week.