Strikers Ditch Lockhart Stadium Because City Is Too Cheap to Fix It

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The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are leaving Lockhart Stadium. Again.

This time, though, it’s not because the soccer club is moving to Minneapolis, merging with a team in Orlando, or going bankrupt. Apparently, it’s because Fort Lauderdale is too stingy to fix up Lockhart.

“The city was not willing to invest a single dollar in that stadium,” Strikers managing director Luis Cuccatti said. “They made that very clear to us.”

For the Strikers to have stayed at Lockhart, Cuccatti said, the city would have had to agree to a 10-15 year lease with the team and help pay the $5-10 million Cuccatti estimates it would take to get the aging stadium back in good condition.

Instead, Fort Lauderdale rented Lockhart Stadium, along with a 65-acre parcel of land next to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, to Schlitterbahn, the company fighting a legal battle to build a waterpark on the site.

Schlitterbahn owner Jeff Henry told the Sun-Sentinel last week that his company has “massive plans” for Lockhart, although they “haven’t talked about the uses in the stadium to anybody.”

Meanwhile, the Strikers announced Tuesday that they would start playing home games on their former practice field at Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill as the county agreed to help pay to upgrade the facilities.

Cuccatti said that while 57-year-old Lockhart Stadium effectively repelled investors, the newly renovated Central Broward Stadium will help attract fans and sponsors. “I understand that Lockhart has history, and history is good,” Cuccatti said, “but history’s not bringing me revenue.”

Strikers teams have played at Lockhart through 39 years, 24 seasons, and four incarnations of the club. This iteration’s final match at the stadium will be July 30 against the Jacksonville Armada.

Lockhart was originally built in 1959 for high school football and track and field events. It has since hosted World Cup qualifying matches, the Interamerican Cup finals, and evangelist Billy Graham’s last South Florida crusade (in 1985).

Cuccatti said that if Fort Lauderdale’s deal with Schlitterbahn falls through, he would be happy to consider moving the team back to Lockhart – as long as the city agrees to help pay for renovations.

“I like that field,” Cuccatti said. “It’s easy to watch soccer there. You’re close to the action. It has some good qualities. The only problem is that it’s a 60-year-old stadium, and every time you touch something it costs money.”

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