We end 2019 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #4: Inter Miami CF plans multiple stadium projects ahead of its 2020 launch.
Ahead of its inaugural 2020 MLS season, expansion Inter Miami CF has been unusually busy in its facility planning, plotting new stadium projects in both Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Backed by an investor group that includes David Beckham, Inter Miami CF has been in the works for years, with several stadium concepts floated until the club’s current plans took shape. Inter Miami CF’s biggest goal is an ambitious $1-billion redevelopment of the city-owned Melreese Country Club, which would include a new privately financed soccer-specific stadium and surrounding development. With those plans still being discussed with city officials (more on that shortly), the club is moving ahead with a project in Fort Lauderdale that includes a training academy anchored by a new stadium that will serve as its interim home for MLS matches (rendering above).
The project in Fort Lauderdale quickly gained traction over the course of 2019, with Inter Miami CF’s plans for the Lockhart Stadium site surfacing earlier this year and construction work eventually launching on the project. The new stadium is located on the site of Lockhart Stadium, a former pro soccer home, with a training academy, offices for the organization, and community space among the features in the surrounding complex.
Despite a quick turnaround time on construction, all indications are that the Fort Lauderdale stadium will be completed on schedule. Inter Miami CF is slated to play its home opener there on March 14, beginning what the club expects to be a temporary stay at the facility for its initial seasons. A club in Division III USL League One that Inter Miami CF will launch in 2020 is also set to use the stadium, and will remain there permanently.
The long-term goal for the MLS club remains to play matches within the city of Miami. The current development proposal, dubbed Miami Freedom Park (stadium rendering above), moved forward in November 2018, when Miami voters approved a referendum that allows the city to negotiate a 99-year lease for the project. The referendum did not finalize plans, however, as Inter Miami CF investors and Miami officials still have to work out the terms of a land lease and eventually have it approved by four of five Miami City Commissioners.
Heading into 2020, the viability of those plans coming to fruition remains uncertain. For right now, it appears that it could be until May before the city and club ownership come to a consensus on a final lease document. There are still some big unknowns that have to be sorted out over the coming months, including the cost of environmental cleanup at the site, as ash from a nearby incinerator was dumped there before it closed decades ago.
Therefore, Inter Miami CF is not completely settled in its facility situation, with the status of its long-term stadium plan still uncertain as its inaugural season approaches. This year was notable, however, in that Inter Miami CF solidified plans in Fort Lauderdale that allows it to begin play on schedule while negotiating a stadium agreement with Miami officials, setting the stage for what should be an intriguing 2020 on and off the pitch.
Here’s the rest of our Top Ten of 2019: