Competing Group Sues Fort Lauderdale, Inter Miami CF Over Lockhart Stadium Deal

Inter Miami CF stadium rendering

After moving forward with their proposed agreement to redevelop the Lockhart Stadium site, the City of Fort Lauderdale and Inter Miami CF are being sued by another group that competed for the property.

Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners recently decided to move forward with a proposal from Inter Miami CF–the MLS expansion club backed by a group that includes David Beckham–to redevelop the 64-acre, city-owned Lockhart Stadium property for an MLS training academy and surrounding amenities. Under the current plans, the club would play is inaugural 2020 campaign and the 2021 season at an 18,000-seat stadium built within the complex, with a USL squad also slated to use the facility. In addition, the development would feature the training academy, four public fields, and public park space.

City commissioners ranked that proposal over a competing plan from FXE Futbol, which called for renovating Lockhart Stadium for a USL club while redeveloping the surrounding land to include soccer and multi-purpose fields, park space, dining and retail options, and a Topgolf facility. On Monday, FXE Fubol filed suit against both the city and Inter Miami CF. The lawsuit contends that the city violated state laws while evaluating and ranking the proposals, while alleging that Inter Miami CF exaggerated asbestos issues at Lockhart Stadium. More from the Miami Herald:

FXE Futbol, which had submitted a proposal calling for the renovation of Lockhart to host a Division 2 soccer team, filed suit Monday morning in Broward County court alleging the city of Fort Lauderdale violated state laws in the process of evaluating and ranking the two bids. The suit accuses Fort Lauderdale’s government of skipping required steps in reviewing the Beckham proposal, including getting an outside opinion from an architect or engineer and commissioning an “independent analysis” of each deal’s cost-effectiveness….

FXE Futbol’s complaint also accuses Inter Miami representatives of overstating the extent of Lockhart’s asbestos problem while persuading city commissioners to give approval for demolition before a final agreement is signed. FXE Futbol’s proposal includes renovating the existing structure.

“We can no longer stand on the sidelines while our due process is being violated,” reads a statement by John F. Reynal, FXE’s managing partner. “Not only do we believe the ranking was carried out without the proper statutory review, but the subsequent signing of the interim agreement to demolish Lockhart would render our proposal impossible to deliver.”

FXE Futbol is being represented by Miami attorney David Winker, who has challenged the Beckham group’s activities in Miami on multiple occasions — from lawsuits to ethics complaints related to lobbying disclosures that revealed the ownership structure of the corporation behind the team’s effort to develop a $1 billion commercial complex and stadium on Melreese golf course called Miami Freedom Park. Voters endorsed a framework of the deal in November; city administrators are negotiating terms of a 99-year lease.

Though the two sides still have to finalize their agreement before the redevelopment proposal can move forward, Inter Miami CF did get approval from Fort Lauderdale officials recently to begin demolition work on Lockhart Stadium and the adjacent Fort Lauderdale Stadium. In statements to the Herald, representatives for both the city and Inter Miami CF indicated they are prepared to defend the lawsuit:

Fort Lauderdale City Attorney Alain E. Boileau told the Miami Herald the lawsuit had no grounds. “The suit is without any legal merit and will be defended vigorously,” he said….

“We have reviewed the complaint and are very confident that, when the facts are properly applied to the applicable law, it will be determined that this lawsuit has no merit,” said John Shubin. “We look forward to working with the city of Fort Lauderdale to bring Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami team, its training facility and youth academy to the community in 2020.”

The proposed Lockhart Stadium deal is separate from Inter Miami CF’s plan for a permanent MLS stadium and surrounding development in Miami. That plan, Miami Freedom Park, calls for a new privately financed stadium and surrounding amenities to be constructed on the city-owned Melreese Country Club site, with the facility opening in 2022 at the earliest.

Discussions with Miami are far from final. Although Miami voters approved a referendum in November that allows the city to negotiate a 99-year lease for the redevelopment, 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.

Rendering courtesy Inter Miami CF.

RELATED STORIES: Inter Miami CF Gets Clearance for Lockhart Stadium Demolition; Inter Miami CF’s Lockhart Stadium Pitch Moves ForwardProposed Fort Lauderdale Stadium Would Host Inter Miami CF for Two SeasonsInter Miami CF’s Lockhart Stadium Plan UnveiledInter Miami CF Faces Competition for Lockhart Stadium RedevelopmentInter Miami CF Training Academy Pitched for Lockhart Stadium Site

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