MLS Commissioner Don Garber, David Beckham and Carlos Gimenez
MLS Commissioner Don Garber, David Beckham and Carlos Gimenez (Eleazar David Melendez)

The stadium for Miami’s planned professional soccer team will be in downtown Miami, David Beckham, the former superstar player backing the team, said Wednesday.

Flanked by the mayor of Miami-Dade County and the commissioner of Major League Soccer, Beckham said at a news conference that county officials “promised” him the stadium would be downtown. Beckham formally announced he was exercising his option to buy an MLS franchise, a right he acquired in 2007.

“The commissioner, the board, the mayor have promised us that we’ll be downtown,” Beckham said. “I think it’s important to be in this part of the city.”

He added: “Soccer fans love to walk to games. I’m hoping it’s the same in Miami.”

Beckham and an ownership group that includes British entertainment entrepreneur Simon Fuller and Miami Beach billionaire Marcelo Claure have been negotiating with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and county commissioners over the past week. Published reports suggested a big part of the talks was assuring support would be provided for a stadium in Miami’s urban core. The Miami Herald has reported the team ownership is vying for a 10- to 12-acre spot near PortMiami.

Beckham’s comment was the first public acknowledgement of those negotiations. He and Gimenez suggested a site would most likely be sought beyond the port and across the bay in downtown Miami proper, perhaps in the neighborhood by the city’s new Perez Arts Museum, where the news conference was held.

“I can tell you as part of the negotiations, as we’ve spoken to the Beckham group, is that we not only want to create an iconic stadium but also a great public space, and if it’s somewhere in this area, to become an additional amenity to what’s happening downtown,” said Gimenez, who recovered from a faux pas after calling the retired soccer star “Mr. Beckman.” “If you come back in five years, you’re not going to recognize what’s happening in downtown Miami. That stadium needs to become part of the fabric of Miami.”

Gimenez noted five county commissioners were present for the announcement: Bruno Barreiro, Lynda Bell, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Dennis Moss and Javier Souto. He said their presence showed “a clear indication that there’s political support for getting this done.”

“We’re going to do all in our power to make sure we can get the stadium built in the right site and as quickly as possible.”

It’s unclear how the county officials could have promised a site, given repeated statements to other publications that the county would not be providing—and Beckham would not be seeking—a government subsidy to build the stadium.

“We don’t want public funding. We want to fund the stadium ourselves,” Beckham repeated.