Update: In an unsurprising decision, Fort Lauderdale commissioners voted unanimously to bring David Beckham and Jorge Mas' InterMiami CF to Lockhart Stadium for the next two years. Beckham and Mas will also apply for a USL franchise to play at Lockhart after InterMiami moves to its permanent home at Miami's yet-to-be-built Freedom Park.
FXE Futbol CEO, JP Reynal, tells New Times his team is "very disappointed with the way Fort Lauderdale Commissioners rushed the process against the advice of city auditors and attorneys... They rushed to please Miami special interests." He adds that FXE is "analyzing all of our options as the process moves forward."
Fort Lauderdale city commissioners will meet today to choose between two wildly different visions for Lockhart Stadium's future.
The Miami Herald reported last week that David Beckham and Jorge Mas's Inter Miami CF plans to play its first two seasons at Lockhart in 2020 and 2021 until construction of Miami Freedom Park is completed.
But Inter Miami will need the approval of Fort Lauderdale's city commission to go ahead with those plans, and an opposing proposal is also up for consideration at this afternoon's meeting.
Fort Lauderdale-based company FXE Futbol's plan would convert the Lockhart stadium property at 1350 NW 55th St. in Fort Lauderdale into a public space with shops, Topgolf, and nine full-size fields intended for major sports events, youth sports, and concerts. Its tenants would include a lacrosse team and a soccer franchise from the USL, which is a tier below Major League but routinely draws 9,000 to 16,000 fans per game in other cities. The company predicts the plan would generate 1,000 jobs and attract two million visitors annually.
FXE Futbol CEO JP Reynal says he's confident his company's proposal will be seriously considered by commissioners, but he also suggests the vote has been rushed to benefit Inter Miami. The commission gave bidders only 21 days — the minimum amount of time required — to submit their proposals. They also gave themselves the minimum amount of days required — 14 — to come to a final decision.
"It's a 50-year-old lease on the biggest piece of property the city owns — 65 acres," says Reynal. "And we believe they're rushing through the process to the benefit of the opposing group since they're on a deadline or a timeline to get their stadium built."
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Reynal argues his company's local ties would yield greater benefits to the community at large. "Whereas they're trying to get about 35 acres of public city land in exchange for $1 a year rent, we're offering the city a $100 million investment in a project that the entire community will be able to benefit from," he says.
But Beckham's team also argues that its proposal will greatly benefit the local community. If approved, Inter Miami CF plans to open up space for public parks and soccer fields. According to Mas, it also aims to use Lockhart Stadium as the base for a youth soccer academy "because there is a lot of talent in Broward and Palm Beach counties."
Reynal says he's meeting with city commissioners and Mayor Dean Trantalis to discuss FXE's proposal before it goes to a vote, but he says officials have told him they and their staffs have not had enough time to review both proposals thoroughly. For its part, the USL is withholding its commitment until a final decision is made regarding the bid.
"We feel that we have a project that's by Fort Lauderdale, for Fort Lauderdale for the next 50 years... We're looking to incorporate a professional franchise from the USL... and obviously, they're offering two years of MLS with Beckham and then 48 years of nothing afterward for Fort Lauderdale... The decision that's being taken here is actually very relevant to the future of soccer and professional sports in Fort Lauderdale, so I think it should be very well analyzed and informed."