Fort Lauderdale Gives David Beckham OK For Soccer Stadium
David Beckham has scored a breakthrough in his quest to bring MLS soccer to South Florida.
Beckham and a group of investors have almost succeeded in bringing a Major League Soccer team to Miami, but their proposed 25,000-seat stadium won't be built for a few years.
In the meantime, they asked to play their 2020 and 2021 seasons in Fort Lauderdale's long-abandoned Lockhart Stadium. But a rival soccer organization, FXE, submitted a competing proposal for the space. Fort Lauderdale's city commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to award the rights to the stadium to Beckham's group.
Both organizations provided conceptual proposals to Fort Lauderdale and secured funding. Inter Miami included a commitment of $50M from Goldman Sachs. FXE lined up $85M from two firms.
Beckham's group proposed building an 18,000-seat stadium at Lockhart. Its pro team, Inter Miami CF, would practice and play there, but eventually play its 17 home games in Miami as the anchor of a $1B mixed-use complex called Miami Freedom Park, with offices, retail and a 750-room hotel. A youth academy would also be based at Lockhart.
FXE Futbol proposed creating nine full-sized fields and bringing in a United Soccer League Championship franchise, which is one tier below Major League Soccer. FXE also proposed retail, including restaurants and a Topgolf.
"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 $100M investment in a project that the entire community will be able to benefit from," FXE Futbol CEO JP Reynal told the New Times Broward — Palm Beach. "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 afterwards for Fort Lauderdale."
"We will be in Miami but our commitment is also to South Florida," Beckham told ESPN. "We are not coming here for just for two years and then abandon this. This is a long-term project."
His group has also proposed bringing a USL One team to the stadium, a level lower than what FXE was proposing. According to the Miami Herald, Inter Miami's front office operations would be housed in Miami, while operations connected to the athletes would be in Fort Lauderdale.
The plan set off objections from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Joe Martinez, who said the soccer stadium had been used as bait to OK the mixed-use aspects of Miami Freedom Park — which is slated to be built on a city-owned golf course. Voters last November had agreed to waive rules requiring open bids, and let the city move forward to negotiate only with Beckham's group.
"So, we give up land owned by the citizens of Miami and absorb the traffic and increased calls for police and fire, but Fort Lauderdale will enjoy the benefits of a soccer training facility in their backyard," Martinez wrote.
It's a loss for green space and the kids of Miami, he said.
He urged Miami city commissioner Manolo Reyes to allow only the soccer facility without the commercial components as talks continue with Beckham's group.