FXE Futbol, LLC has a sell to make in the next few weeks. The ownership group needs to convince the City of Fort Lauderdale and its commissioners that its plan for soccer at Lockhart Stadium is better than one proposed by Inter Miami CF. Before closing the deal with the city, however, the group attepted to close the deal with fans and supporters of soccer in Broward County on Wednesday night.
John P. Reynal, the managing partner of FXE Futbol, presented his group’s vision and took some hard-hitting questions from the assembled crowd in a town-hall meeting.
Reynal appears to know what kind of challenge his proposal may face.
“Right now, the city commission has been star-struck by the name Beckham. And I don’t blame them! He’s a very good looking guy, used to be a great player, and he really revitalized the MLS. He deserves the recognition,” Reynal said. “Buy they’re offering to come in, take 30 acres of city land, pay $1 a year rent to build a private, enclosed facility with zero community involvement. We’re offering a project that’s open to the public, that will generate jobs for the city.”
The plan includes a renovation of Lockhart Stadium. In the Inter Miami plan, the historic venue would be torn down in favor of a modular stadium that faces north-south instead of east-west. FXE wants the “new” Lockhart to seat 10,000, with the possibility of renovating of a maximum of 15,000.
USL to Broward
The stadium would be home to a USL Championship side. Per FXE Futbol, the group has a letter of intent with the league contingent on the approval of their plan by the City of Fort Lauderdale.
FXE has approximately $50 million in committed financing for the entire project according to Reynal, with $20 million for Topgolf and retail, $15 million for the refurbishment of Lockhart and the remainder committed to the development of seven free-to-play public soccer fields. The fields would serve as a training base for the USL club, but could also be utilized by the public and – what may prove to be a key revenue source – youth tournaments.
Reynal was able to confirm the FXE plan would include a Topgolf facility on the southeastern corner, away from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. Additional, Reynal said that the group was intent on bringing in a Major League Lacrosse franchise, identifying the Florida Launch when pressed.
Because the site is so close to an airport, the Federal Aviation Administration is involved in whatever development may take place there. The highest point is on the Topgolf site, and the hurdle the FAA provides doesn’t appear to be too daunting to Reynal.
“We’ve been in discussion … Where the Topgolf facility is located, the top of the poles do not exceed the top of the light posts for the stadium,” Reynal said. “We still need to apply, but we’ve been told we’re OK.”
‘What the f***?’
News related to Lockhart tricked out for years, then came like a deluge last month. First, Inter Miami announced its proposal, with FXE sharing days later. This caused many people to think FXE Futbol was a Johnny-come-lately. According to Reynal, this was a misconception.
“The Beckham folks have floated out the idea that we just came out of the woodwork. So we’ll explain who we are,” Reynal told the town hall. He stated that the brain trust behind FXE had been involved for two years with a similar proposal spearheaded by Premier Parks, LLC, which operates Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach, among others. When Premier Parks left the Lockhart site, FXE stayed behind.
Reynal was stunned when news of the Inter Miami proposal was released on Jan. 28.
“My first reaction was ‘F***!’,” Reynal told Magic City Soccer after the event. “I think the second one was ‘What the f***?’ We were not expecting it at all.
“But then, when we got a chance to really analyze, I think it turned out to be a good thing. It accelerated the process, it made it more competitive, and it forced us to sit around with people from the community, business leaders, and develop something that was more community-inclusive.”