Soccer

Judge won’t stop David Beckham group from clearing Fort Lauderdale stadium site

David Beckham visits new Inter Miami stadium site on “Groundbreaking Day”

Former soccer star and Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham visits the team's new stadium on "Groundbreaking Day."
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Former soccer star and Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham visits the team's new stadium on "Groundbreaking Day."

A judge Friday rejected a request to stop David Beckham’s partnership from demolishing Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale to make way for a new Major League Soccer training facility and stadium for a franchise Beckham eventually wants to move to Miami.

FXE Futbol sued to block Beckham’s Inter Miami from beginning demolition work under a city deal that FXE had tried to win itself to redevelop Lockhart into a soccer complex. MLS used to play there before folding in 2001. The Beckham group, led by Miami’s Jorge Mas, wants to turn Lockhart into a training facility and youth academy for the new Miami MLS franchise. It also plans an 18,000-seat stadium where it can play the team’s first two home seasons while awaiting a permanent stadium in Miami.

In April, a unanimous city commission picked Beckham’s proposal over the FXE plan for a minor league soccer team in a renovated Lockhart, surrounded by entertainment options, including a Top Golf facility. Beckham’s partners launched the competition by submitting an “unsolicited” proposal for its MLS plan, and FXE responded with its rival plan when the city asked for competing offers.

In rejecting the FXE request to freeze demolition plans, Broward Circuit Court Judge Raag Singhal said there was nothing suggesting the city overstepped its authority in picking the Beckham proposal.

This “court does not have unfettered control over a power properly vested in another branch of government,” Singhal wrote.

David Winker, the lawyer representing FXE, said his client plans to appeal. The Beckham group got permission from Fort Lauderdale to begin clearing the Lockhart site even before it had a final deal to take control of the city property, so that it could have construction done in time for the 2020 MLS season.

Kelly Penton, a Beckham group spokeswoman, said Friday the group has begun removing light posts and that demolition work is scheduled to begin next week.

Beckham’s franchise had wanted to make its MLS debut in Miami, but negotiations are still underway for a 25,000-seat stadium there, to be surrounded by a mall, office complex, hotel and park. In November, city voters approved waiving no-bid rules to allow Miami to negotiate exclusively with the Beckham group for a development deal of the Melreese golf course near Miami International Airport.

“Today’s decision confirms that the process that is bringing world class soccer to the City of Fort Lauderdale was both lawful and fair,” Inter Miami lawyer John Shubin said in a statement released after the ruling. “We also hope that we have seen the end of this meritless litigation.”

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