Inter Miami CF proposes renovation of Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium to develop youth academy

Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium, as pictured in March 2018. Photo by Matthew Bunch.

In a unexpected turn of events, it appears that Inter Miami CF is planning on locating its youth academy in Broward County, setting its sights on a redevelopment of Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium, the club announced in a statement Monday afternoon.

“Inter Miami proposes to build and operate a state of the-art soccer training facility, a world class professional soccer stadium and a soccer-centric community destination,” the cover letter to the proposal reads.

According to the letter, the new development would feature two types of facilities on site: “Team Facilities” and “Community Facilities.” The team facilities would include a redeveloped “multi-purpose” Lockhart Stadium, an approximately 30,000 square-foot building (which will house the team’s training facilities, and administrative offices for its MLS team, USL team [more on that tomorrow] and youth academy) and grass fields for training. The community facilities would include a running/walking trail, a public park, a playground, a dog park, public fields, a field maintenance building and space for a potential community meeting center.

In the proposed scenario, the city would retain ownership of the land, while the team would pay to build and maintain everything on site except for the proposed community center, if the city chooses to build it. The team is seeking a 50-year commitment at the site.

Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica has been commissioned for the design of the site, which was also involved in the planning of Miami Freedom Park.

This would be an abrupt about-face from a plan the team appeared to be working on about a month ago, when owner Jorge Mas spoke to the Miami Herald about a potential youth academy site at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah.

A decade of waiting

This would answer a decade-long questions of what happens to the 60-year-old facility. For years, Lockhart and the adjacent Fort Lauderdale Stadium baseball facility hosted Spring Training baseball games and high school football games. With the departure of the Baltimore Orioles in 2009 and the FAU Owls in 2010, regular events were less frequent. Miami FC of the USL made its move to NASL and Fort Lauderdale in 2010, giving it some attention, but the club and the city could never come to terms with the Federal Aviation Administration on a redevelopment deal.

The athletic facility is directly adjacent to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Because of this, the FAA has authority to approve any redevelopment. This was a repeated snag in the plan to redevelop the stadium while the Strikers played there from 2010 until 2016, when the club unexpectedly and rapidly moved to Central Broward Regional Park before folding in early 2017.

This is a breaking story. It will update throughout the evening.