Major League Soccer hasn’t been in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., since 2001. That’s the last year the Miami Fusion played before the club folded.
But MLS could come back to the South Florida city by hosting a training facility for Inter Miami CF, a 2020 expansion club led by David Beckham. Club leaders have proposed a new complex at the site of Lockhart Stadium. The facility would serve as training grounds for the MLS team and be the home for an “anticipated” United Soccer League club and a youth academy, according to a statement released by the club. Inter Miami says the site would feature several fields and “state-of-the-art amenities.”
“The site isn’t being used now,” Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “It would really become our home base of operation for training and development.”
Lockhart Stadium opened in 1959 and was originally used as a venue for high school events, such as football and track and field. In 1977, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League became the first pro soccer club to host its games there. Florida Atlantic University’s football team has also played games there, and the NFL’s Miami Dolphins played preseason scrimmages there.
The field at Lockhart Stadium hasn’t hosted a match since 2016.
“The vast history of soccer in South Florida has deep roots in Fort Lauderdale,” McDonough said in a team statement. “It is a privilege to be able to present a sustainable proposal that honors that history and revitalizes the area. . . . This proposal will establish our daily soccer operations in a centralized location that caters to youth players from all of South Florida, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.”
The Inter Miami youth academy will provide more than 120 local athletes a fully-funded opportunity to develop their soccer skills. The academy’s teams will range from ages 12 to 19.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Lockhart Stadium site would continue to be under the city’s ownership and control. It would include facilities for the public, such as a dog park, a track, a playground, public fields and a community center. Under the proposal, Inter Miami would fund the design and construction of all the team’s facilities. The club would also pay for maintenance of the team facilities. The city would pay for the maintenance for the public and community facilities. The agreement would last 50 years.
“When (Inter Miami) presented the proposal (Monday) morning, it was an important moment in our city because we, as a commission, had been talking about rebuilding and reprogramming the stadium,” Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to move forward and then see Lockhart Stadium come to life once again. It’s an exciting time for our city.”
An official start date hasn’t yet been announced, but Inter Miami is expected to join MLS for the 2020 season. Plans for a stadium near the Miami International Airport are not finalized yet. In November, the club’s majority owner Jorge Mas said that the club could play in MLB’s Marlins Park on an interim basis until Inter Miami’s stadium is finished.