Fort Lauderdale Strikers say so long to Lockhart Stadium

Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ Luis Fernandes drives the ball during a match against Miami FC at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on April 2, 2016.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ Luis Fernandes drives the ball during a match against Miami FC at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale on April 2, 2016.

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are moving from Lockhart Stadium, a place that has been synonymous with the soccer club dating back to its heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The team’s new home will be Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill, a 5,000-seat venue that is one quarter the size of 20,450-seat Lockhart. A smaller, cozier home should create a more intimate atmosphere for the Strikers, who have been struggling to attract fans.

Despite recent success in the U.S. Open Cup, the Strikers’ attendance has plummeted 70 percent this season. Their average crowd of 1,310 ranks last among the 12 teams in the North American Soccer League and well below the league average of 5,017.

Their first game at Central Broward will be Aug. 20 against the Ottawa Fury.

“The move to Central Broward Stadium allows us to focus on our fans and improving the experience of attending a Strikers match — a critical pillar of the club’s long-term success,” trikers managing director Luis Cuccatti said. “It was important for the club to initially prioritize our coaching and playing resources this season, and now that has allowed for us to shift our focus toward enhancing everything surrounding our fan experience. We look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership between the Strikers and Broward County, and the future successes of our new home.”

Central Broward Stadium is at the corner of Sunrise Blvd. and State Road 7, and has been used by Major League Soccer in recent years for its annual combine. It features covered seating and four full-sized soccer fields, and will serve as the team’s training facility, as well. Cricket is also played there.

“We’re happy that the Fort Lauderdale Strikers have decided to relocate to Central Broward Stadium and keep professional soccer in Broward County,” park manager Duncan Finch said. “The county made a crucial additional investment to the multi-use stadium by relocating two light posts behind the covered seating area, which brings the soccer field closer to the fans. This improvement convinced the Strikers to make the move to Central Broward Stadium, and to work with the county toward a long-term agreement.”

The Strikers organization will continue to operate Lockhart and plan to host international friendlies and tournaments.

“While the history of Lockhart remains compelling and the pitch itself is a great venue, the recent changes to CBR accompanied by the adjoining practice fields and the ability to house the front offices makes it an excellent fit for the future of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers,” Strikers advisor Sean C. Guerin said. “I already know the players and the staff love it, and I am convinced the fans will embrace it as well.”