David Beckham’s much anticipated Major League Soccer (MLS) team could be heading to Fort Lauderdale. This doesn’t mean the team will be shifting its base stadium from Miami Freedom Park, near the Miami International Airport, but the team could be training at Lockhart Stadium, once the proud home of professional soccer in Fort Lauderdale.
State- of-the-art training facility
On Monday, Beckham’s official MLS organization, Inter Miami, announced a proposal has been submitted to the City of Fort Lauderdale to acquire the former stadium located on NW 55th Street in Northeast Fort Lauderdale. The proposal is for Inter Miami to design, construct and maintain a state-of the-art soccer training facility, a multi-purpose sport stadium and a sport centric community destination at the stadium.
The stadium, former home to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers soccer team, and several home games for the former South Florida MLS team, the Miami Fusion, years ago has fallen into disrepair. It’s former lush football pitch has deteriorated into a square of over- grown bushes, thistles and weeds.
West Kendall soccer coach and enthusiast Richard Donaldson is very optimistic at the news of the Lockhart Stadium proposal. “Form it was announced some four years ago that Beckham was bringing an MLS team to South Florida I saw this as a big motivator for hundreds of Caribbean American youth, male and female, who plays or want to play soccer. I was concerned, however, there was no definite word on a training facility which could be shared by the local youth.
To facilitate youth academy
“Now, according to the Inter Miami proposal, along with serving as the training facility for Beckham’s MLS team, it would facilitate the team’s youth academy and be equipped with several regulation soccer fields, and modern amenities.”
Paul McDonough, the Sporting Director of Inter Miami is reported as saying one of the primary reasons why Lockhart Stadium was selected as the MLS team’s primary raining facility was because it is geographically positioned to draw academy youth players from Palm Beach County, Broward County and Miami-Dade County.
In a released statement McDonough said the history of soccer in South Florida is deeply rooted in Fort Lauderdale “dating back to the original Strikers of the 70’s and 80’s, the Miami Fusion of the 90’s and early 2000’s as well as the recent clubs that have called Lockhart Stadium their home.”
He also stated that Inter Miami youth academy is the most important pillar of Inter Miami’s legacy offering. He sees the proposed Lockhart Stadium site as offering young soccer players ages 12 to 19,“the opportunity to train alongside the professionals and aspire to one day represent our community in front of their hometown crowd, as they pursue their professional or collegiate careers.”
Donaldson said another reason why he is so optimistic at the news of the proposed training facility at Lockhart Stadium, and its accessibility to local youth is, “It would eliminate the dreaded ‘up north-down south’ dilemma that has so often plagued united development of so many projects in South Florida. All the youth will have potential access to the facility based on their soccer skills and talent regardless from which county they are from.”
Serves other sports
Inter Miami also indicated the refurbished stadium would also serve other sports and host professional national and international soccer matches, tournaments and exhibition games, youth soccer tournaments and high school sporting events.
Fort Lauderdale’s Mayor also reacted positively towards the Inter Miami proposal saying the proposal is an “important moment for Fort Lauderdale’ and meets the city’s objectives of “rebuilding and reprogramming the stadium.”