A proposed Fort Lauderdale stadium and training complex would host Inter Miami CF until a new facility in Miami is completed, club officials announced Thursday.
Slated to begin play in 2020, expansion Inter Miami CF has been working on two distinct facility plans. One is a proposed $60-million complex at the Lockhart Stadium site in Fort Lauderdale, which would include a new 18,000-seat stadium to replace Lockhart Stadium as well a training complex and community amenities. The other is a new soccer-specific stadium as part of the larger Miami Freedom Park project, a proposed redevelopment of the city-owned Melreese Country Club near Miami International Airport.
The Miami Freedom Park proposal includes the club’s permanent venue for MLS matches, but that project is still pending final approval and would not be completed by next season. The Fort Lauderdale proposal has not received final approval either but, with city officials set to vote Tuesday on entering into negotiations for one of two plans for the site, it could be completed on a faster schedule. If Inter Miami CF is able to fend off a competing bid and move forward with redevelopment of the Lockhart site, it would construct a new stadium that could host MLS matches for two seasons The venue would also host a USL club that would remain in Fort Lauderdale after the MLS side settles in its permanent home. More from the Miami Herald:
“Our ownership group has spent months carefully discussing venue options to launch Inter Miami CF’s inaugural season in MLS, while we build Miami Freedom Park,” said Inter Miami CF Sporting Director Paul McDonough. “Ultimately we decided to expand our vision for the Fort Lauderdale project to launch our first two seasons in the League the right way. Our goal is to provide fans with the most captivating soccer atmosphere and gameday experience, and we did not believe this would be possible at the venues we evaluated.”
[Jorge] Mas said recently he was “very excited” about his team’s proposal to develop the publicly-owned Lockhart Stadium grounds in Fort Lauderdale as a state-of-the-art training site that would double as a youth development academy. “We’re going to build a new stadium there,” he said. “It’s not a refurbishment of Lockhart. It will be a new stadium for a (second-tier) USL team and a soccer-centric academy. We’ll be able to host tournaments and other games there.”
The plan is for the USL team to remain there after the first team moves to Freedom Park.
Another Miami-based soccer group, FXE Futbol, is also interested in the site, and submitted an extensive plan that includes renovating the stadium and creating a sports entertainment complex. John Reynal, the managing partner of FXE Futbol, has been involved in soccer for many years and brought international friendly matches to the area through his company On-Site Entertainment.
Should Tuesday’s vote yield a successful outcome for Inter Miami CF and the plans move forward, it would resolve the lingering question of where the club would play until a new stadium project is completed. Although an ethics complaint relating to the stadium proposal in Miami was dismissed Wednesday, the group still has plenty of work to in finalizing the Miami Freedom Park plan. In November, Miami voters approved a referendum that allows the city to negotiate a 99-year lease for the redevelopment, but that outcome did not automatically trigger approval for the project. The city and Miami Freedom Park, LLC will have to negotiate a 99-year land lease for the site, an agreement that will require approval from four of Miami’s five city commissioners.
As for Fort Lauderdale, city officials will have to settle on long-term plans for the Lockhart Stadium site. Located near Fort Lauderdale Executive Aiport, Lockhart Stadium is a facility that opened in 1959 and has been home to numerous soccer clubs in the past, including MLS’s Miami Fusion (1998-2001) and multiple incarnations of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The last incarnation of the Strikers (NASL) played their final match there in 2016, and the condition of Lockhart Stadium has deteriorated in the years since.
Renderings courtesy Inter Miami CF.
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