Soccer

Inter Miami wants to play first two seasons at Lockhart Stadium, awaits Fort Lauderdale’s approval

If David Beckham and Jorge Mas get their wish, Inter Miami CF will play its first two seasons at a newly constructed $60 million Lockhart Stadium soccer complex in Fort Lauderdale. Lockhart was the home of Major League Soccer’s first South Florida team — the Miami Fusion, which folded in 2001.

Beckham and Mas were at Lockhart on Thursday afternoon to announce their proposal, which will be voted on by Fort Lauderdale’s city council on Tuesday.

Through a non-solicited proposal originally submitted to Fort Lauderdale on January 28, Inter Miami had already committed to privately fund the design, development, construction, maintenance, and operation of a state-of-the-art soccer-training complex that includes an 18,000-seat stadium, as well as several community facilities, including a public park.

The team had said the site would be used for the franchise’s youth academy, and now is expanding the plan to make it the team’s temporary home until construction of Miami Freedom Park is completed, likely in 2021.

Lockhart Stadium
David Beckham and Jorge Mas are proposing that Inter Miami play its first two seasons -- 2020, 2021 -- at a newly-built Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Courtesy Inter Miami

Marlins Park, Hard Rock Stadium, and Florida International University had been considered as temporary venues, but Inter Miami officials opted for Lockhart.

“We looked at FIU, Marlins Park, and Hard Rock, but at the end of the day, none of them were the right fit for the fan and sponsor experience we are looking for, and scheduling was an issue,” Mas said. “This is the best solution. By creating our own stadium, we have a ton of flexibility, don’t have to adapt to anyone else’s building and we can have whatever sponsors we choose. This will be a good-looking stadium that will be perfect for the first two years and to host other games, too. It doesn’t have the guts of a regular stadium, but we will create a great soccer-fan experience in a plaza with booths and tents and pop-ups.”

Mas added that the Lockhart location makes sense for the youth academy because there is a lot of talent in Broward and Palm Beach counties and it will be more accessible for those kids. The site also could be used by visiting national teams, club teams, and could be a potential training site for the 2026 World Cup.

Mas and Beckham had dinner Wednesday night with FIFA president Gianni Infantino, CONCACAF officials, and MLS commissioner Don Garber, who are in town for FIFA meetings. Mas said they were supportive of the Lockhart proposal.

Mas insisted the permanent stadium at Miami Freedom Park will be “an unbelievable wow stadium” and the Lockhart facility will be a secondary soccer-centric venue. He added that if the team’s plan is approved by Fort Lauderdale, construction could begin as early as late April or early May.

“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.”

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.”

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The plan is for the USL team to remain there after Inter Miami 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 Side Entertainment.

Fort Lauderdale will make a decision on which group to start negotiations with during Tuesday’s council meeting. If Inter Miami is picked, it will commit $60 million to the project and begin the construction phase as soon as permits are available.

Aside from the soccer-performance facilities and fields, Inter Miami plans to build several public features, including parks and soccer fields. The site could also host concerts, high-school sports, and other events.

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Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.
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