Beckham and his group were clearly relieved that this day had come.
“This is something that has been a dream for many, many years,” said Beckham, a former captain of England’s national team who also played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris St.-Germain and in M.L.S. with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“There were times we said, ‘This dream is not going to happen — there’s too many bumps in the road,’” Beckham added. “But we never gave up.”
As part of his original contract with the league from when he joined the Galaxy in 2007, Beckham was given an option to buy a franchise for $25 million at the end of his playing career. A significant figure at the time, it has proved to be a bargain. The owners of the two franchises entering the league in its current round of expansion, in Nashville and a to-be-named city, will pay about $150 million each for their teams.
Monday’s announcement was made almost exactly four years after M.L.S. heralded Beckham’s intention to exercise his ownership option. The pledge Beckham received from Garber back then was contingent on Beckham’s group finalizing a stadium plan — a point M.L.S. officials have made publicly and privately for years. Last fall, after reports of wavering confidence in the shifting ownership group and mounting frustration at the league office in New York, the deal appeared all but dead.
But after a dinner in New York two months ago, a newly configured ownership group came into play, determined to press on. The new members included the billionaire founder of the Japanese telecommunications company SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, and the brothers Jorge and José R. Mas, members of one of Miami’s most well-known Cuban exile families and the owners of Mastec, an engineering and construction company based nearby in Coral Gables. The other members of the group are Sprint’s chief executive, Marcelo Claure, and the entertainment mogul Simon Fuller, a longtime associate of Beckham’s.
“The stars have aligned,” Carlos A. Giménez, the Miami-Dade County mayor, said in a telephone interview on Monday. “There were a lot of false starts, a lot of obstacles to overcome. David persisted and persisted, and when a door closed, there was always another one.”
Beckham’s first plan was to build a stadium in the county-owned PortMiami, but the cruise industry, heavily invested in the harbor, put up roadblocks to the deal. Later proposals included a waterfront site in downtown Miami and another in the Little Havana neighborhood, next to Marlins Park, but both ran into their own crippling hurdles.
That “rocky road,” as Claure put it in his remarks on Monday, appeared to have come to an end with the ownership group’s agreement to purchase almost nine acres in Miami’s downtrodden Overtown neighborhood. If all goes well, that site will be home to a 25,000-seat stadium that could cost $500 million. Local officials, embarrassed by a deal for the Miami Marlins stadium that left taxpayers on the hook for $2.4 billion, had balked at helping to underwrite the costs of the soccer venue, and Beckham had to opt for private rather than public financing.
Although the deal is all but sealed for the Overtown location, at least one legal challenge remains. It concerns part of the proposed site, a 2.8-acre lot owned by the county and used as a storage depot. In a lawsuit filed last summer, Bruce C. Matheson, a wealthy Miami landowner, challenged the county’s approval of the $9 million sale since it had not allowed for competitive bids. County officials argued that Florida law permits such no-bid transactions involving public land if they result in wider economic benefits. In October, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, but Matheson has appealed.
In addition, some residents of Overtown, traditionally one of the city’s poorest and most underdeveloped neighborhoods, have objected to the proposed stadium on the grounds that there is no official provision for job creation in the immediate area.
But most businesses seem to welcome the prospect of a stadium in their midst. “Talk about stimulating the neighborhood,” said Luis García, whose family has run a seafood restaurant on the Miami River, three blocks south of the proposed soccer venue, since 1966. “I’ve got to believe that local restaurants and bar owners are going to benefit. Consider the demographics: We have the melting pot of Latin America. How come we haven’t had a major soccer team here?”