As David Beckham’s long-stalled bid for a Miami soccer stadium flirts with another calendar year, the head of Major League Soccer said owners might need to make other plans if the celebrity athlete can’t close a deal.
“There is a deadline on the Miami deal,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told reporters in Toronto, while declining to say when that deadline would arrive.
Garber said Beckham’s squad is supposed to be the 24th franchise in the 20-team league. “If they’re not going to be 24,” Garber said, “there are going to be a lot of things that we have to move around.”
The comments come as Beckham’s Miami representatives are trying to jump-start momentum in a stadium chase that became public in early 2014. After failed bids on the Miami waterfront and by Marlins Park, Beckham and his partners purchased six acres of land in western Overtown last spring and now need to negotiate a deal for three acres of land that Miami-Dade owns next door.
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While Miami-Dade county Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said the county is ready to sell, Beckham’s group has dragged its feet on negotiations while trying to line up investor dollars to back the privately financed stadium, which is expected to cost at least $150 million to build. Beckham’s local lobbyists last month arranged for Gimenez to meet with a group of unnamed investors, and the mayor said he addressed about a dozen people during the get together at a downtown Miami law firm.
The notion of Beckham facing a deadline isn’t new: his 2007 deal to play for the MLS team in Los Angeles included a provision that allowed him to buy a league franchise at a deep discount. Beckham’s negotiators have used the option’s expiration as leverage to try to accelerate Miami talks when the soccer star first arrived on the scene in 2014, and MLS owners extended the deadline when the stadium deal failed to materialize.
But privately, MLS and Beckham insiders say the extensions won’t last forever. Garber said MLS owners plan to announce new expansion plans after a board meeting next week, and more details about Miami’s timetable could be part of that explanation. Aaron Gordon, a Miami public-relations executive representing the Beckham group in Miami, issued a statement Friday that read:
“Our partners are 100 percent committed to Miami, and we will continue working with Commissioner Garber and the league as we finalize the launch of our world-class soccer club. We're making progress, and we appreciate the strong support of our fans as our launch draws closer.”
Garber did not mention Miami in his lengthy introductory remarks at the league’s annual meeting in Toronto. His comments on Miami came in response to a reporter’s question.
“We continue to work with the ownership group because we want a team in Miami,” Garber said. “We continue to be very engaged there.”
But with ownership groups in Atlanta, Minnesota and California building the league’s 21st, 22nd and 23rd stadiums, Garber suggested the Miami delay could eventually trigger a decision to look elsewhere for new fans.
“We need to resolve the Miami situation so we can move forward,” he said.