FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (November 20, 2019) —
David Beckham’s new Major League Soccer team Inter Miami gave the media tour today of what will be the club’s new 19,000-seat Fort Lauderdale stadium.
On Wednesday morning in Fort Lauderdale, an army of over 300 construction workers were transforming some skeletal steel structures peaking into the sky and massive amounts of dirt into a state-of-the-art soccer stadium.
Their completed work is expected to host the very first home game on March 14 for soccer legend David Beckham’s Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami, the latest attempt at building a lasting professional soccer franchise in South Florida.
The Fort Lauderdale stadium is supposed to be Inter Miami’s temporary home stadium until 2022, when Beckham hopes to move the team to its permanent home in Miami. The Fort Lauderdale location would be used as the team’s training and development facility.
Although the construction of the Fort Lauderdale site has moved along quickly, securing a stadium site in Miami has hit many snags — casting doubt on Beckham’s time table for moving the team.
On the south side of the Fort Lauderdale site, workers laid down the first blades of grass, pressed into place by a lawn roller. Gleaming rafters that’ll hold more than 18,000 fans were being assembled piece by piece, like a gigantic Lego set. On the west side of the stadium, half of a roof was constructed out of metal sheets.
Over the next few weeks, the roof of both sets of rafters on either side of the glass will be complete, according to team representatives. A scoreboard will be installed. Twenty-three premium box suites on the west side of the field will be filled out.
Behind the stadium, the skeleton of a 50,000-square-foot training center that will be used by both the team and their development programs was being pieced together. It will include six grass fields for Inter Miami to practice on, as well as their academy teams, which will be used to recruit and develop local talent.
Close by, construction soon will begin on a turf field, which will be used for community events, as well as by local high schools to host football games and other sporting events.
Although those pieces of the plan looked far less defined than the stadium itself Wednesday, a team spokeswoman said the entire complex will be completed by the time Inter Miami takes the field in March.
Construction on the entire project started five months ago, according to Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough.
McDonough, who has helped oversee the construction, while also worrying about front-office moves — such as hiring a coach and signing players — said he is proud of what Inter Miami has been able to accomplish in that time span, even if it hasn’t afforded him much sleep. “We are on an accelerated time schedule,” he said.
McDonough said he has played a role in launching two other MLS expansion teams in recent years — the Atlanta United and the Orlando City Soccer Club. However, he said getting Inter Miami off the ground has been an entirely different beast. “Nothing has ever been this fast, this condensed or this hectic.”
When David Beckham and his team of developers and businessmen first signed the 50-year deal to lease the Fort Lauderdale property, it was imagined as a temporary stadium for the first two seasons, and as the home of the team’s USL One team. How long it will need to be the first team’s home remains undetermined. The ongoing politics in Miami make the city extremely difficult to work with (unless one is a condo developer with plans to build yet another condo tower).
The final city commissioners approval of the Melreese Country Club lease is just one of many hurdles that Beckham’s group has faced in securing a stadium location in Miami, leading some to speculate whether Fort Lauderdale might become the team’s permanent home.
McDonough said that although there are doubts as to whether the original timetable for the team’s Miami move will hold up, the process in Fort Lauderdale has been refreshingly smooth. “We’re fortunate that we have this,” he said. “We are going to continue with the process in Miami, but we’re going to start here and see where it goes.”
McDonough thanked the city of Fort Lauderdale, including the city manager and other officials for aiding the process. “The city has been unbelievable. The city commissioners have supported us, and everyone involved has come together with one goal, and that is to get this done by mid-February,” he said.
The new stadium in Fort Lauderdale will replace what was once Lockhart Stadium, home to South Florida’s last attempt at a soccer team: The Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The team was started in 1977 and transitioned between various professional leagues and stadiums before finally disbanding in 2016.
McDonough acknowledged the historic significance of the previous franchise, while remaining hopeful that the new grass his construction team was busy setting into place behind him would represent a fresh start for soccer in South Florida — perhaps even a lasting one.
“This is where all of our players are going to play and develop and our fans will get together,” he said, motioning to the grass. “We’re going to build a special club here for South Florida.”
With edits by Russo Soccer.