MIAMI (Reuters) - David Beckham appealed on Saturday for support for his plans for a Major League Soccer stadium in Miami, insisting that he doesn’t want public money and will create “something special” for the city.
Beckham and his backers are currently negotiating for a waterfront site next to the Miami Heat’s American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami after plans for a venue at the port of Miami met local political resistance.
The second proposal, which involves filling in a large boat slip and placing the stadium in a new park area, has also come up against some opposition despite Beckham’s team offering to pay for the arena entirely out of private funds.
That plan could go to a vote in a referendum in November and on Saturday Beckham fired up his campaign for support – visiting a downtown children’s soccer center, as well as the heavily Hispanic Little Havana district, and posing for photographs with local residents.
“We feel that we are doing something positive for the city here and I think people know that,” Beckham told Reuters in an interview after the event.
“At the end of the day, it can go one way or another, if we get the public support it can be incredible but if we don’t we will find a way to turn them around and make them realize that this is a great thing and we are not here to take their money,” he said.
While sports teams across the United States regularly get public funding for new stadiums there is widespread opposition to that idea in Miami after $500 million was spent on a baseball stadium for the poorly supported Miami Marlins team.
Beckham’s message to potential referendum voters, as well as the politicians he must convince to back his plan, is that his backers will be investing in the city and not arriving with the begging bowl.
“We are here to create something that will be special for them now and for their children and grandchildren in the future,” he said.
Beckham is not entirely unfamiliar with the role of persuader – he acted as ambassador for the London 2012 Olympics and for England’s failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup and is an advocate of numerous international brands.
But the tricky world of Miami politics is a different beast and he finds himself now almost in the role of politician.
“I’ve been like that for the last 10 months to be honest. I am happy that I never went into politics, I can’t lie,” he said with a smile.
“But I have enjoyed the process. It has been something that has been different. We have come up against a few difficult opponents, that’s something I’ve done in the past, but I know what the challenge is, we know what the challenge is.
“We will find the right site and I am confident that we will have a downtown site, but it is a lot of work.”
Miami residents can expect to see plenty more of the former Manchester United player in the coming months, posing for selfies with fans as well as trying to hammer out deals in City Hall.
(This version of the story adds a correct spelling for U.S. clients and removes an extraneous words in paragraph 8.)
Reporting By Simon Evans; Editing by Ossian Shine and David Adams