By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — David Beckham’s long-planned soccer stadium deal is closer to reality. Miami voters gave city officials permission Tuesday to negotiate a no-bid lease deal with Beckham’s group, which wants to build a Major League Soccer complex on what has been a public golf course.
Beckham’s group is also planning to have technology offices, a hotel and retail space on the land, in return for guaranteeing the city about $3.6 million in rent annually.
It’s not a done deal: Now the retired soccer star and his partners must negotiate the terms with city officials for the 25,000-seat stadium and transforming the rest of what is now the Melreese Country Club into a 58-acre (23-hectare) public park.
Tuesday’s win was the first big one for Beckham’s club, officially named Club Internacional de Futbol Miami — or Inter Miami. Beckham has considered and wanted several other sites over the years, before turning his attention to Melreese in recent months.
“I started this dream five and a half years ago … to bring a team to Miami, to bring a team to this great city,” Beckham said at a rally Tuesday night. “To bring a team to you, the people. We’ve had some speed bumps along the way. We’ve had a few problems along the way.”
Beckham’s group has also committed to spend about $35 million to clean up toxic waste at the site and pay a living wage for employees.
The land deal had critics on multiple fronts, with some like Miami native and longtime pro golfer Erik Compton asking voters to save the course and others filing legal challenges saying the city is required to not only have competitive bidding but to get fair market value when selling or leasing property.
“On behalf of all of us at Major League Soccer, we thank the community for its support, and Miami city officials for their leadership,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber wrote in a thread on Twitter.
Beckham is a global icon when it comes to soccer, entertainment and fashion. He started his career with Manchester United and also played for Real Madrid, the Los Angeles Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain. He was a fixture in international matches for England for years and won four championships in four different leagues around the globe.
“We’ve proved to the world that persistence, patience, makes things happen,” Beckham said. “We are going to bring a championship winning team. We are going to bring great players. We are going to create homegrown talent.”