David Beckham met with his business partners, Jorge and Jose Mas, and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, on Thursday and Friday in Kansas City, as the newly assembled group prepares for a late-January official launch of Miami’s long-awaited Major League Soccer team.
The team is scheduled to begin play in the 2020 season, although it may have to play in a temporary site the first season if the Overtown stadium is not completed in time.
In his first public comments since joining the Beckham ownership group in December, Jorge Mas told the Herald on Saturday night: “We had super, super productive meetings in KC. I’m very excited for what we can bring the Miami soccer fan, and we’ll have some big news to announce in Miami in the near future. Being a native, I’m a Miami guy 1,000 percent, and I want to make this a really special team with a really special fan experience.”
Mas wouldn’t say the exact date of the team-launch news conference, but indicated it would be by the end of the month. Two other sources close to negotiations said it would be at the end of January.
The team name and preliminary uniform designs would be unveiled at that event, which is expected to be attended by Beckham, his partners, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
The Mas brothers, Miami-based leaders of telecommunications/construction giant MasTec and philanthropists with deep ties to the area, spent Thursday and Friday going over team structure, philosophy, branding and stadium plans with Beckham and Claure. They met with Kansas City-based Populous, a global architectural firm that specializes in the design of sports stadiums and arenas.
The firm, which is designing the Overtown soccer stadium, is responsible for more than 18 Major League Baseball ballparks, including Marlins Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Coors Field in Denver, and Progressive Field in Cleveland. They also have designed NFL and NBA venues, and soccer stadiums all over the world.
“We went very detailed into fan demographic needs, sound level, canopies that retain sound, how to angle the stadium, sight lines, everything you can imagine,” Mas said. “We went over a significant number of stadiums in Europe, MLS stadiums that work here, from the fan experience outside the door to inside the door.
“One of the advantages we have with having Marcelo as a partner and [CEO Chairman] Masayoshi Son as a partner is our reach and access to new technology that we can adopt in the stadium. In the future, you’re going to have things like virtual reality, holograms, things like that. I want it to be a fun, raucous, state-of-the-art experience, a reflection of all the passion our community has for the sport of soccer.”
Beckham’s group also spent some time with the management team of MLS team Sporting KC, and touring their facilities.
“They were very helpful, gave us great advice, told us what they do right and wrong,” Mas said. “They’ve had 110 sellouts in a row and counting, so it was super-interesting to talk to them.”
Mas said there are plans to have a fan plaza outside the stadium, and a March to the Match along the Miami River, similar to the pre-match march Sounders fans do in Seattle. He said they are exploring options for parking and transportation to matches.
“The three hours at the stadium are super important, but we also want fans to have a good experience from the minute they leave their home until they get inside the park,” Mas said. “The people at Populous are experts in these areas, and we discussed a lot of different ideas for Miami.”
The Mas brothers decided to join forces with Beckham after their bid to buy the Marlins fell through. They spoke with Claure in the fall. Things were not working out with Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly, who was brought in last April to be the majority partner of the Beckham group, so the Mas brothers stepped in.
They flew to New York City in early November to meet with Claure and Beckham’s business partner Simon Fuller, and on Dec. 14, the new ownership group was given the stamp of approval from the MLS Board of Directors.
The league leadership had been hoping for more of a local representation in the Beckham ownership group, and they get that with the Mas brothers, who belong to one of Miami’s most prominent and wealthy Cuban-American families. Their late father, Jorge Mas Canosa, was a vocal leader of the exile community. Claure, a Bolivian native, spent many years living in Miami and running Brightstar Corp., before taking the job at Sprint.
The Mas brothers and Son were well-received by MLS owners, several of whom were familiar with them from the tech world and the Mas family’s recent bid to buy the Marlins. The stakes in the new investment group are more evenly divided than they would have been with Boehly, which was important with some MLS owners who were critical of Boehly getting into the league by piggy-backing on Beckham’s deeply discounted franchise fee of $25 million that was one of the perks of the $250 million contract he signed with the league 10 years ago.
The current league entry fee is $100 to $150 million.
The new Beckham group is not paying that much, but is paying more than $25 million, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The Mas Brothers and Claure together will be the majority owners, with Beckham, Fuller and Son holding minority stakes.
In addition to the stadium, the Beckham group plans to build a state-of-the-art youth academy to develop young players. The site of that academy has not been announced.