David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF have announced that they plan to play in Fort Lauderdale for their first two seasons as a franchise.
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Inter Miami want to play at the now abandoned Lockhart Stadium and spend a combined $60 million to make it happen, bolstering previous plans from the club who had announced they wanted to build a training facility, youth academy and other community facilities on the site.
Announced via a press conference at the dilapidated venue, Beckham and fellow owner Jorge Mas said they plan to build a new 18,000 capacity stadium on the site and the team will play there for their first two seasons as an MLS franchise, in 2020 and 2021.
“We’re going to build a new stadium there,” Mas 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.”
Beckham and his wealthy ownership group have been searching for many years for a suitable stadium site in Miami but so far their numerous plans have failed to be approved across downtown Miami and surrounding neighborhoods.
Miami Freedom Park is their preferred choice of location for a permanent 25,000 capacity home, and although that process is moving along nicely, they still need a key city council vote to make the stadium close to Miami International Airport a reality.
The Lockhart Stadium plan will need backing from Fort Lauderdale City Council early next week, with a rival bid from FXE Futbol also in the running as they want to build a sports and entertainment complex.
Lockhart Stadium was of course home to the only previous MLS franchise in the area, Miami Fusion, which folded in 2001 after four seasons in the league.
Anybody who has seen Lockhart Stadium over the past few years knows that it is overgrown and the general shell of the venue has been left as it was in 2001.
With more than a little TLC, Becks and Co. won’t have to spend too much to develop the site, which sits 35 miles north of Downtown Miami. In the future it will act as a training facility, home stadium for their USL side, academy and will also have various facilities which will benefit the community. So, this is a smart play as they were looking for a training facility and home for a new USL affiliate club anyway.
That said, it is also a pretty decent fallback option if Inter Miami do not get approval to build their permanent new stadium in Freedom Park.
With the location of Lockhart Stadium blamed by many for the Miami Fusion not getting large crowds in MLS from 1998-01, and their eventual liquidation in MLS, this is a risky move for Beckham’s franchise as they aim to get big crowds and generate a real buzz around the franchise in South Florida.
Then again, with the clock ticking to their MLS entry, time is running out.
This option is probably a lot better than playing at Florida Atlantic University football stadium or Hard Rock Stadium, which are both far too large for a small, but growing, fanbase of Miami’s new MLS franchise.