After Opponents Withdraw Legal Challenge, Beckham Group Demolishes Lockhart Stadium
The Inter Miami CF Major League Soccer club hosted a demolition ceremony Wednesday to start tearing down Fort Lauderdale’s long-abandoned Lockhart Stadium.
The ownership group, led by Jorge Mas and David Beckham, has committed to investing $60M to build a new stadium, team offices, a youth academy and a park. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis called it a "visionary project that will completely transform the 64-acre site."
The ceremony began about 24 hours after a rival team conceded a legal challenge over the site.
While Beckham has for years been trying to bring an MLS team to Miami, another company, FXE Futbol, had been hoping to put a team from a different league, the United Soccer League, 30 miles north at Lockhart Stadium.
So FXE was surprised in January when Beckham's group — which is negotiating with the city of Miami to build a $1B stadium and mixed-use complex down there — came to Fort Lauderdale, also with eyes for Lockhart. Beckham's Inter Miami team said it needed the site to use for games for its first two years, and would also use it for training after that.
Both companies submitted proposals to Fort Lauderdale city commissioners. Beckham's group wanted to demolish Lockhart and rebuild, while FXE wanted to work with the existing facility. Beckham's group won.
FXE challenged that decision in court and asked that a judge stop Beckham's group from demolishing Lockhart while the legal issues play out. Broward Circuit Judge Raag Singhal on Friday denied a motion for a temporary injunction.
"The process that is bringing world-class soccer to the city of Fort Lauderdale was both lawful and fair," said John Shubin, who serves as counsel for Miami Beckham United. "We also hope that we have seen the end of this meritless litigation.”
David Winker, an attorney who has challenged Beckham's group at various steps along the way, represented FXE in the case. He initially vowed to appeal Friday's decision and keep pursuing the underlying case. But Tuesday, FXE posted a statement by Managing Partner John Reynal announcing that it would no longer pursue its lawsuit and had withdrawn its proposal. It said it would pursue opportunities elsewhere. Winker did not respond to an emailed request for comment from Bisnow.
Miami Beckham United's plans have been an ongoing source of contention in Miami, where taxpayers had to kick in $2.4B for a notorious stadium deal with the then-Florida Marlins. In November, voters gave the city the OK to bypass its own rules and negotiate with Beckham's group in a no-bid deal to take over the city-owned Melreese golf course for its $1B project.
Critics say the city is undervaluing the land, and now, many also are upset that the team's operations will be spread out to Fort Lauderdale instead of focused on Miami. On Twitter, some have taken to calling the project #Melfleece.