For the public in Fort Lauderdale, there is much to like about the deal.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (July 10, 2019) —
It was another win in the books for soccer legend David Beckham. On Tuesday night, his group, which operates under the legal entity known as Miami Beckham United, LLC *1 won an agreement from the City of Fort Lauderdale assures the Major League Soccer team will have a new stadium in time for the start of the 2020 season.
City commissioners unanimously embraced plans to transform the defunct Lockhart Stadium, located off Commercial Boulevard and Northwest 12th Avenue, into a professional soccer centre.
City officials said very little Tuesday, and Beckham and his business partners were not present.*2 Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis was very pleased by the result.
“This is a really a wonderful turning point in our community,” Mayor Trantalis said. “Congratulations. We’ll be there for the first kick.”
While Beckham’s ultimate goal is to build his team’s home stadium in Miami, and to use the planned Fort Lauderdale stadium as a training hub for cultivating soccer talent, the immediate problem of finding a suitable place to play in the meantime is solved. For at least the first two seasons, starting next March, Beckham’s new Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, will play in Fort Lauderdale.
The 18,000-seat Fort Lauderdale stadium and the 25,000-seat Miami stadium would be about an hour apart, by car.
For the public in Fort Lauderdale, the transformation will include sports fields, a city park and a home football field for two high schools — Fort Lauderdale and Stranahan — that currently have none.
Already, Lockhart Stadium and the adjacent Fort Lauderdale Stadium have been demolished.
The name of the new sports stadium hasn’t been announced. The agreement approved Tuesday says the group can name any portion of the Inter Miami site, including the stadium, without the city’s consent, “provided such name shall not be in bad taste or offensive to the city’s image, or in the reasonable opinion of the City Commission is a source of embarrassment to the Fort Lauderdale community.”
Commissioner Heather Moraitis said she supports retaining the “Lockhart” name, after former city commissioner H. Y. “Doug” Lockhart. The decision rests on Miami Beckham United, though. Securing a naming rights agreement would be a logical step and one which can bring in revenue that would be used to offset operating costs. While naming rights agreements vary in length and terms, many are between 5 and 7 years in length.
Under the terms of the deal, no money changes hands. In return for use of the property for 50 years, Beckham United will construct sports fields, a trail, playground, and park space on the southern portion of the property, for the community. The agreement expires on December 31, 2069, but Inter Miami can renew the lease agreement for a five-year term. Thereafter, by mutual agreement, the lease can be renewed for two additional five-year terms.
The city intends to use some of its $200 million parks bond, approved by voters in November, to enhance the new city park there.
Other terms of the deal:
- FOOD, DRINKS: The Inter Miami group can operate concessions, including any restaurant, sports bar or tavern.
- COMMUNITY: At least 24 days a year, local high schools will have access to Inter Miami’s turf field for high school football or soccer events. In addition, four days a year, the city can use Inter Miami’s stadium for football, soccer, JROTC, band concerts or other community events.
- SPELLING: The agreement says that “Miami Beckham shall endeavour in good faith not to abbreviate the word ‘Fort’ in city’s name in any written promotional materials.”
- MONEY: Miami Beckham United will pay the estimated $60 million to construct all improvements. After that, the group will pay to operate and maintain just the Inter Miami portion, which includes a stadium and a 50,000 square foot training facility with locker rooms, weight rooms, classrooms, and dining facilities.
- DEADLINE: All the work is to be completed within three years, but if it’s not, the city’s only recourse is to take over construction of the public portion, and bill it to Miami Beckham United.
The group’s progress toward a stadium in Miami has been plodding. But in Fort Lauderdale, even with the appearance of a feisty soccer rival, the Beckham deal came together in just six months.
Miami voters in November agreed the city should negotiate with Beckham and Mas toward a 99-year lease at Melreese Country Club, just east of Miami International Airport.
And say this for Beckham: He somehow lasted the process. He needed some local muscle like Mas being added. But even if you didn’t follow all the ins and outs, the commission meetings and changed stadium sites, Beckham lasting six years through this fight is as revealing as the finish line drawing near.
“I had no idea,” Beckham said. “I honestly thought I’d announce the team and we’d be up and playing in a year. Not because of who I am. Just because I felt there was such a movement in this country and such a moment in the MLS and this sport that I just assumed it would be pretty easy to start a team.”
*1 – Miami Beckham United, LLC is a Delaware Limited Liability Corporation duly authorised to conduct business in the State of Florida.
*2 – The ownership group consists of Jorge and Jose Mas, chairman and CEO, respectively, of MasTec engineering and construction company; Marcelo Claure, co-founder of Brightstar Corp. and chief operating officer for SoftBank, which owns Sprint, and billionaire businessman Masayoshi Son, founder and executive chairman of SoftBank.