David Beckham sure knows how to make an entrance. The soon-to-be MLS investor/operator captured attention and sparked interest from the moment he landed in Miami on Monday. He mingled with local politicians and posed for the cameras at an event on Tuesday night.
As usual, his splashy presence offered a hint of greater things to come. The payoff arrived at a press conference with MLS commissioner Don Garber and Miami-Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez this morning. Beckham confirmed his intention to exercise a contractual option to invest in a MLS club and place it in Miami, pending the approval of a stadium deal and the MLS Board of Governors.
"This is an exciting time," Beckham said. "This is an exciting time for myself, my family and friends and partners. It’s something we’re really looking forward to bringing to Miami."
The transition from concept to reality isn’t finished yet, though. This announcement is just the latest step on a long and complex road designed to transform a clever idea into a successful end product. Follow Beckham along the way with this primer about the journey ahead.
Beckham and Simon Fuller will play prominent roles in the push to bring MLS back to Miami.
How did David Beckham transition from player to potential investor/operator?: Beckham and his savvy advisers negotiated an option – reportedly in the range of $25 million – to invest in a MLS club when he first signed with the league in 2007. He expressed interest in taking up his now significantly discounted right – New York City FC coughed up a reported $100 million to join MLS last year – after he retired from the game and subsequently started the process of evaluating several cities across the country as potential landing spots.
Why Miami?: The active, multicultural city fits neatly within Beckham’s carefully cultivated and tightly managed brand. The demographics offer plenty of encouragement in terms of building a fan base. The interest in soccer here has increased substantially since the Miami Fusion ceased operations in 2002. The prospect of playing near South Beach will tempt any number of big-name foreign stars to contemplate a move to MLS. And, as Beckham told the Miami Herald on Tuesday night, “Why not? It’s a great city; it’s a vibrant city. I can’t think of anywhere better.”
Beckham isn’t doing this by himself, is he?: Nope. Business manager, confidant and entertainment guru Simon Fuller is prominently involved with the investment group, Miami Beckham United. So is Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure. LeBron James has talked about a possible investment, too.
What exactly did this glitzy announcement in an art museum achieve?: It cemented Beckham’s intentions to place a club in Miami, though his goals aren’t exactly a secret at this stage. It should add further impetus to a project with several hurdles still left to clear. Momentum remains a crucial part of this process given the complicated political situation in south Florida in the wake of the Marlins Park imbroglio.
Building a stadium isn’t going to be easy, is it?: Not by a long shot. Not even after Beckham essentially ruled out public funding during the press conference. And Beckham’s hopes of placing his team here rest on a successful outcome.
Where does Beckham want to build the stadium?: In the flashiest, sexiest place he could find: a county-owned portion of Dodge Island right in the middle of PortMiami. It’s the stadium equivalent of a waterfront condo with a great view of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. The working plan involves a privately-financed stadium on county-leased land as part of a larger rejuvenation of the area. The project will also presumably involve some sort of infrastructure improvements to address the inevitable traffic snarl given the dearth of routes to and from the island and the paucity of parking spaces available.
There are other options, right?: Yes. Beckham and his team assessed 30 or so potential sites and winnowed the list down to five realistic choices with the help of Miami-Dade County officials. Some of the parcels are downtown. Others are a bit further out. But the location on the water is the one they really want.
Is there a deal in place?: Not yet. Even with this charm offensive, it is going to take some time to satisfy all constituencies in a deal of this magnitude. Beckham and his people will work closely with Miami-Dade County to reach a suitable pact for everyone involved.
Once everyone is on board, how does it all unfold from there? Complete the negotiations by the end of the summer. Receive approval from the MLS Board of Governors to officially award Beckham an expansion team once the stadium plan is in place. Start play in a temporary venue like Marlins Park or Sun Life Stadium in 2016 or 2017. Move into a glimmering new palace shortly thereafter. Revel in the fact that all of those grand entrances yielded the desired result in the end.