The City of Fort Lauderdale has approved the proposal from Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami (Inter Miami) to utilise Lockhart Stadium as its temporary home, rejecting a rival bid.
Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners yesterday (Tuesday) unanimously voted for Inter Miami’s project, which was outlined by the club last week. In January, Inter Miami presented a proposal to the City of Fort Lauderdale for the design, construction and maintenance of a training facility and multi-purpose 18,000-seat stadium on the site of Lockhart Stadium, but at that stage had not committed to the facility as its home venue.
However, the club’s ownership group leaders, David Beckham and Jorge Mas, on Thursday put forward a proposal for Inter to play at Lockhart Stadium for the 2020 and 2021 MLS seasons, until its planned Freedom Park stadium opens in Miami.
The rival bid came from FXE Futbol, another Miami-based group. FXE Futbol had also promised to redevelop Lockhart Stadium, outlining the presence of a pro league team, along with retail and a Top Golf facility. However, CBS Miami reported that city commissioners favoured the Inter Miami bid due to its MLS backing and the belief they could deliver on their proposals.
Mayor Dean Trantalis said: “FXE Futbol did not have a commitment from their league and therefore even if we approved them there was no saying they’d ever have a team playing here.”
FXE now has five days to contest the decision, with managing director John Paul Reynal stating that after working for two years on their proposal they believe they have been undercut by Inter Miami. “We believe the process was rushed,” he said. “We believe the process was done badly.”
Speaking after the decision, Mas said Inter will aim to break ground in July with a view to delivering a revamped Lockhart Stadium in March 2020. Inter Miami will invest $60m (£45.2m/€53m) into the Lockhart site, which first opened in 1959. The complex is envisioned for usage by visiting national teams and clubs, as well as a potential training site for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which the United States will co-host with Canada and Mexico.
With the Freedom Park plans yet to be officially approved, Mas added: “We don’t know what the future holds. I’m planning on playing at Miami Freedom Park in 2022 but if for some reason that option isn’t available, we’ll adjust accordingly.”
Image: Inter Miami