Garber: Fort Lauderdale is Not Inter Miami CF’s Permanent Home

Inter Miami CF Fort Lauderdale stadium rendering

While stressing the importance of a new stadium in Miami, MLS commissioner Don Garber emphasized Sunday that Inter Miami CF will not make Fort Lauderdale its permanent home.

Backed by an investment group that includes David Beckham, expansion Inter Miami CF officially began MLS play with its match at Los Angeles FC on Sunday. The club’s home opener is set for March 14, kicking off an interim run at a new 18,000-capacity Fort Lauderdale Stadium (rendering above) that serves as the anchor of the organization’s training academy.

The venue in Fort Lauderdale has been billed as a placeholder for the MLS squad, as club investors continue to pursue plans for a new stadium as part of a larger proposal to redevelop a city-owned golf course near Miami International Airport. When attending the club’s first match Sunday, Garber praised the quality of the training facility in Fort Lauderdale and expressed his belief that the stadium will make for a fine temporary home, but that the goal remains for the club to eventually build a new stadium in Miami. Discussions over that proposal continue, with club ownership recently expressing confidence that the project could move forward in the coming months. More from the Miami Herald:

“I’ll be at the [home-opening] game on March 14, I think their temporary stadium will be terrific, and we hope to get the big stadium in downtown Miami over the finish line,” Garber said. “They’re going to play [in Fort Lauderdale] as long as they have to, but they are not going to stay in Fort Lauderdale. There will come a time where we’re going to have to push the envelope and get that deal finalized. We’ve been doing it for 10 years.

“This is a Miami team playing temporary in Fort Lauderdale. The training environment is state of the art, absolutely awe-inspiring. They need to move out of there, get their academy programs and USL teams playing there and they need to get downtown.”

The lease agreement for Inter Miami’s proposed long-term home at Miami Freedom Park, the site of the Melreese Golf Course, awaits political approval. At the rate things are going, the expected 2022 opening could be delayed a year.

“I’m very confident that in the next 60 to 90 days we’ll get a green light,” Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas said in New York on Wednesday. “The more it’s delayed, the more spillover we will have into potentially being [in Fort Lauderdale] three years. But I don’t foresee us being in Fort Lauderdale more than three years.”

In addition to MLS matches, the new stadium will host home games for Fort Lauderdale CF, a new Division III USL League One club established by Inter Miami CF. That team is slated to play in Fort Lauderdale permanently, regardless of if/when the MLS club is able to secure a new facility in Miami.

Meanwhile, the proposal in Miami remains under discussion. The current development proposal, dubbed Miami Freedom Park, 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.

Rendering courtesy Inter Miami CF.

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