Miami loves a star.
And David Beckham, more clothed than in his Super Bowl Sunday underwear commercial, is one.
The retired soccer icon spent more than an hour Tuesday night schmoozing with politicians, jetsetters and ordinary people at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall as he tried to gain momentum for a Major League Soccer franchise in Miami.
“There's going to be a few bumps along the way, but we're going to make the team in Miami not just the best team in America,” he said in brief remarks to the crowd, “we're going to take the team global.”
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About 200 people, including more than a handful of Miami-Dade County and city of Miami commissioners, milled at the lobby of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts venue, most of them remarkably punctual – presumably not to miss a chance to pose for a selfie with Becks.
Beckham, nattily clad in a dark charcoal suit and narrow black tie with white polka dots, moved about 20 feet all evening, stuck in a slow-moving throng of photo-snappers and glad-handers. He made a point of chatting with politicians and devoted MLS fans sporting black, white and blue “MLS in Miami” scarves.
Bill Talbert, president of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, brought a soccer ball for the superstar to sign.
“I bought this today at the Midtown Sports Authority,” Talbert said. “No one else brought a prop. I think he'll remember this. And I’ll ask him to sign it again after his team's first game here.”
After Beckham signed it, in red, Talbert raised the ball in the air in triumph. Then, he handed it to Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell.
Bravo TV's Real Housewives of Miami star Alexia Echevarria and her husband, Herman, also attended Tuesday's event, which served as a warm-up for Wednesday's joint news conference with County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and MLS Commissioner Don Garber, both of whom attended Tuesday’s soirée. So did Beckham's manager and business partner, Simon Fuller.
“Herman was like, ‘Don't ask for a picture with him,’” Echevarria said. “But everyone and their mother was getting a picture with him so I was like, ‘I'm going in.’”
Garber is expected to formally announce Wednesday at the Pérez Art Museum Miami that Beckham has exercised his contract option to buy an expansion franchise. Beckham hopes to establish the team in Miami, if he can get a new soccer stadium.
When asked why he wanted to bring an MLS team to Miami, Beckham countered, “Why not?”
“It's a great city; it's a vibrant city,” he added. “I can't think of anywhere better.”
The location he and his investors have honed in on: the southwest corner of PortMiami. Other sites near downtown also are being considered.
Beckham's investment group, Miami Beckham United, has begun negotiations with the county over the publicly owned seaport site. Miami-Dade officials say any deal involving public land would have to clear several political hurdles.
Beckham's group intends to use private funds to build the stadium, though it has hired a Tallahassee lobbyist to seek a state subsidy other professional sports teams have received.
On his way out the door, Beckham told a scrum of TV crews that he has faith in Miami fans backing an MLS team.
“I've seen the atmosphere in the city, being here for the [NBA] playoffs last year, I saw the passion of the people, the passion the public had for the sport in general,” he said. “I'm really looking forward to the announcement [Wednesday]. It's an exciting time for the MLS and myself as well. Being welcomed into Miami is unbelievable.”
Then he hopped into the back of a black Cadillac Escalade and was whisked away.