“Demolition Day” paid tribute to the past while remaining squarely focused on the future of “fútbol” in South Florida.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Wednesday May 8, 2019)
A South Florida morning at its finest – bright, sunny skies, light breezes and warm temperatures – provided the perfect backdrop to an official ceremony by Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami to mark the beginning of the transformation of Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. The site will be the permanent home of the Inter Academy, the club Training Centre, and home of its USL affiliated club. A new 18,000 seat stadium will be built as part of a park with a soccer focus. In addition to being home for the yet-to-be-named USL club, the stadium will be the temporary home for Inter Miami CF during its first two seasons in Major League Soccer, before moving to Miami Freedom Park once it is ready.
Television personality and fútbol commentator Fernando Fiore was the host of the ceremony and was his vibrant and humorous self. He recalled his many visits to Lockhart Stadium over the years, and called it a “pleasure” to return. He pulled out his ticket to the inaugural Miami Fusion game from Sunday, March 15, 1998 – Section 3, Row 15, Seat 98. “Please Jorge, make sure I have a seat by that one when we open the new one,” he joked.
Supporters of the new club were also very visible, with all three of the official Inter Miami Supporters Groups on hand: Vice City 1896, Southern Legion and The Siege. They sang, waved flags, banged drums, and set off the ubiquitous Inter Miami pink smoke into the air, announcing their presence and laying claim to the site.
Inter Miami CF Managing Owner Jorge Mas was one of the speakers at the event. Charismatic as always, he wanted to stress what the project stands for:
I had the chance to ask Ray Hudson, a legend of soccer here, who played for the original Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and later managed the MLS Miami Fusion, as well as enjoying success as an announcer for BeIn Sports. He told me he’s on board and called it a sign of progress. He also added to TV reporters:
Among politicians on hand was Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. During his speech addressing the attendees, he said: “This is truly a historic day for the city of Fort Lauderdale as we come together to kick off a visionary project that will completely transform the 64-acre site and have a lasting impact on our community for generations to come,” Trantalis added: “Our partnership with Miami Beckham United and Inter Miami CF represents a new and exciting chapter in the history of this storied property. One that will bring $60 million in upgrades and improvements including a new professional soccer stadium, training facilities, team offices, a youth soccer academy, multi-purpose community athletic fields, and a major public park.”
Looking Ahead: Images of the new Lockhart Park (courtesy of Inter Miami CF and Manika)
Season Ticket Deposit Campaign Begins
Yesterday also saw the opening day for fans to begin placing deposits on season tickets for the inaugural season in 2020. Links are available on Inter Miami social media channels, or online at www.InterMiamiCF.com. Fans can also affiliate with a supporters group, thereby gaining the ability to receive a special rate on season ticket deposits in the supporters section of the stadium as well as other benefits. More details are available on each of the social media accounts of the supporters groups.
Ordered and Adjudged that Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion for Temporary Injunction, filed April 23, 2019, is hereby DENIED. Additionally, Plaintiff’s unverified request for Emergency Relief, filed April 30, 2019, is hereby DENIED. Furthermore, this Court GRANTS Defendants’ Request for reasonable attorney’s fees in defending against Plaintiff’s unverified Request For Emergency Relief, pursuant to section 57.105, Florida Statutes. See Also Admin. Order 2014-32-Civ(c)(6) (Sep. 30, 2014). DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, on this May 3rd, 2019. s/ Raag Singhal, Circuit Court Judge
And with those words, the merit-less attempt to stop Inter Miami CF from continuing its plans to demolish the abandoned and dilapidated Lockhart Stadium, in order to make way for a new stadium, training centre and academy, was disposed of, leaving club officials, supporters and fans with a much-needed victory.
David J. Winker, acting as counsel for FXE Futbol, went to court to put a halt to the work. He left court owing what will surely be a hefty legal bill to the attorneys who defended the City of Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beckham United, LLC. against an emergency motion seeking an injunction that the Court felt was thoroughly without merit.
The primary argument raised by Miami Beckham United, LLC, a co-defendant in this case, was that the City of Fort Lauderdale’s decision to accept the unsolicited bid it made was one that is not properly reviewable by the Court: “The Plaintiff cites to zero authority, and Inter Miami is aware of none, that supports the proposition that a third party, without a legally recognized contractual or property interest in specific municipally owned property, such as Plaintiff, may enjoin that municipality from demolishing its own property.” (Defendant Miami Beckham United, LLC’s Response in Opposition To Plaintiff’s Emergency Motion For Temporary Injunction, pg. 5,6)
It was also argued that the Plaintiff lacks standing (a legal term meaning that it has no ability to bring forth a claim) and failed to meet any of the four requirements needed to be shown for injunctive relief to be granted.
The team’s counsel John K. Shubin, made this statement after today’s decision:
“Today’s decision confirms that the process that is bringing world-class soccer to the City of Fort Lauderdale was both lawful and fair. Our client will continue to move forward in good faith with the hard work that needs to be accomplished to convert this process into a reality. We also hope that we have seen the end of this meritless litigation.”
John K. Shubin, Esq.
With a little over 300 days until the start of the 2020 season, at least the question of where Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami will be playing its home games took a big step forward today.
A major component of Inter Miami CF’s plans for the Lockhart site, in addition to a 19,000 seat stadium that will serve as the interim home for the club as well as the permanent home to its affiliated USL League One (3rd Division), is a youth soccer academy — a competitive, travelling soccer team of the region’s best young players. The academy will be fully funded by the club, and players selected will be able to attend for free. The first members of the Inter Miami CF Academy are expected to be announced sometime soon. More than 6,000 South Florida youth players were scouted and over 500 were invited to attend formal tryouts that have been held at the Central Broward Regional Park and Stadium.
For the public, four “pitches” — a regulation size soccer field that can be used for other sports — will be created, as well as a dog park, a running trail, playground and public park. The estimated investment that Inter Miami is making, including new, $30 million stadium: up to $60 million.
Inter Miami’s permanent home will be located in Miami at Miami Freedom Park, the site now occupied by the Melreese Golf Club. The team is currently working out the details of a lease which will be presented to the City of Miami.
UPDATE: Lockhart Stadium’s demolition is set to officially begin this Wednesday, May 8, 2019. All supporter groups and fans are welcome to arrive between 8:15-8:45 A.M. EDT.
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Thursday, March 14, 2019) – Kenneth Russo
Inter Miami CF wins!
In the end, City of Fort Lauderdale commissioners agreed that there was only one choice. On Tuesday, they unanimously selected the bid by Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, and David Beckham’s vision for bringing the club’s permanent training centre and home to its youth academy to Fort Lauderdale.
Included in the club’s plan is a new Lockhart Stadium, which will serve as Internacional’s home stadium in 2020 and 2021, as well as the permanent home of the club’s USL One affiliate.
Marlins Park, Hard Rock Stadium, and Riccardo Silva Stadium on the campus of Florida International University had all been considered as temporary venues, but Inter Miami officials opted for Lockhart.
If all goes as planned, the construction of an 18,000-seat modular stadium, complete with a shade canopy, at 1350 NW 55 St in Fort Lauderdale, should begin in July, making it ready for Inter Miami CF’s first season. Next year’s MLS calendar has yet to be revealed, but traditionally the league begins play on the first full weekend in March, which next year would mean Saturday, March 7, 2020.
Highlighting the Difference in Government Efficiency
Inter Miami only placed a bid on the city-owned property in Fort Lauderdale at the end of January. In less than two months, they presented their proposal and obtained the approval of city commissioners to negotiate a lease. Meanwhile, in Miami… More than four years passed between David Beckham’s initial announcement in 2014 that he had chosen Miami as the city for his MLS team, before he and his partners finally were able to make progress. And the process in Miami is still not complete, despite a large approval (over 60%) by voters last November to transform Melreese Golf Course into the home stadium for Inter Miami CF as well as a the creation of Miami’s largest park (Miami Freedom Park), public soccer fields, a technology hub, office, hotel and entertainment space.
Fort Lauderdale Commissioners Saw the Value
After hearing proposals by both Inter Miami and a competing bid by FXE Futbol, city commissioners voted to rank the Inter Miami CF proposal higher than the FXE Futbol proposal, and the commission voted Tuesday night to allow negotiations to begin.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis and Commissioner Ben Sorensen were understandably happy with the decision by Inter Miami to invest in the city, an investment estimated to be worth $30 to $60 million. “It’s a great day for Fort Lauderdale,” Commissioner Sorensen said.
During the round-table meeting, comissioners watched animated renderings on a flat-screen television of visions by architecture firms hired by Inter Miami CF, a Major League Soccer franchise, and FXE Futbol, which was hopeful of being granted a United Soccer League franchise to compete in the USL Championship (2nd Division). However, FXE Futbol had not actually submitted a formal application to USL, per USL sources. They instead decided to wait until obtaining the right to negotiate with the City of Fort Lauderdale before applying. They also disclosed during hearings that they would be seeking additional investors as part of their bid for the project and USL franchise.
Both of the plans involved demolishing the abandoned Lockhart Stadium, which first opened in 1959 and was named after a former Fort Lauderdale commissioner. The adjacent former baseball stadium will also be demolished. Inter Miami CF’s designs were created by Manica Architecture, which specialises in the design of international sport venues. Inter Miami CF’s vision will be entirely privately funded.
South Florida Soccer Icon Weighs In
Ray Hudson, 63, was in his usual ecstatic form. The former English soccer player has good memories at the now abandoned Lockhart Stadium. After playing for the Newcastle United, he moved to South Florida in 1977 to play for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
The midfielder played for them until 1992, and then went on to coach the Miami Fusion, a former MLS team based out of Lockhart Stadium. He now works as a commentator on beIN Sports covering La Liga games and radio host for SiriusXM FC 157.
Commitment to Fort Lauderdale is Long-Term
In a non-solicited proposal originally submitted to Fort Lauderdale on January 28, 2019, Inter Miami committed to privately fund the design, development, construction, maintenance, and operation of a state-of-the-art soccer training complex that includes an 18,000-seat stadium, as well as several community facilities, including a public park, at the 65-acre site. The total investment in Fort Lauderdale will be on the order of $60 Million, half of which will go into building the new Lockhart.
Mas said recently he was “very excited” about his team’s proposal to develop the publicly owned Lockhart Stadium grounds in Fort Lauderdale as a state-of-the-art training site that would double as a youth-development academy.
“We’re going to build a new stadium there. It’s not a refurbishment of Lockhart. It will be a new stadium for a (second-tier) USL team and a soccer-centric academy. We’ll be able to host tournaments and other games there.”
– Jorge Mas, Managing Owner, Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami.
Even after Inter Miami CF moves to Miami Freedom Park adjacent to Miami International Airport, Inter Miami CF promises not to abandon the property. The team says it is applying for a USL franchise. USL forms the second and third tier of US Soccer. Inter Miami plans to run a club competing in USL League One. (Third Tier) This club will remain permanently at Lockhart and will allow locals to see players develop before hopefully being selected to the senior squad.
The team also said that the site will be used for the franchise’s youth academy. It will be the longest distance from the home stadium to an academy in MLS, but this only underscores the huge amount of territory that South Florida spans.
“Our ownership group has spent months carefully discussing venue options to launch Inter Miami CF’s inaugural season in MLS, while we build Miami Freedom Park,” said Inter Miami CF Sporting Director Paul McDonough. “Ultimately we decided to expand our vision for the Fort Lauderdale project to launch our first two seasons in the League the right way. Our goal is to provide fans with the most captivating soccer atmosphere and gameday experience, and we did not believe this would be possible at the venues we evaluated.”
Ability to Attract Talent To The Academy A Factor
The Sporting Director also pointed out that having an Academy in the middle of the urban South Florida area made good sense. “I think the decision for us was: We want to be South Florida’s team, and our youth territory stretches all the way south from Homestead, all the way north to Palm Beach,” McDonough said. “So we figured that if we wanted to capture the best players for our developmental system, we thought that this site gave us the best opportunity.
“Yeah, the history of everything that’s happened at that site was really neat, but I think it was really important that we captured the best players — but also that we are South Florida’s team.”
Aside from the soccer-performance facilities and fields, Inter Miami plans to build several public features, including parks and soccer fields. The site could also host concerts, high-school sports, and other events. The team said there will be no commercial development on the property. Fort Lauderdale will only have to maintain the four community soccer fields being built. Inter Miami CF will maintain its seven soccer fields it intends to build.
The next step in this process will be for the City and Inter Miami CF to agree on the terms on the long-term lease. Building permits will also need to be procured. The plan is to begin construction in July, 2019.
The United Soccer League is owned by NuRock Soccer Holdings, LLC, a Florida LLC with its principal business address in Tampa. NuRock controls 99%. The other 1 % is held by Robert Hoskins.
In 2018, the USL announced a rebranding, which took effect immediately at the close of the 2018 season. The rebranded USL will be modeled after a recognized and respected international structure – one central brand, three leagues. Unlike Major League Soccer (“MLS”), which operates under the single entity, limited liability legal structure, the USL operates a pure franchise model which is highly centralized and top-down in its execution.
Looking to the future, the league aims to bring stability to the turbulent world of lower division soccer in the US. It seeks to strengthen its contribution to U.S. Soccer’s efforts toward becoming a world powerhouse and its pursuit of winning a World Cup.
The Three Leagues
USL CHAMPIONSHIP ( 2nd tier of US Soccer)
In 2017, the USL was given provisional accreditation as a DII league. In 2018, the USL was sanctioned as the sole DII league in the United States. The fee in 2018 to buy a franchise is believed to be $7 million. That fee can be expected to rise, given the historical rise in franchise fees in both USL and MLS over the past several years. According to USL documentation, the current expected initial investment by a new team is at least $10.6 million (including the aforementioned $7 million expansion fee)
Currently, the USL has 33 teams, divided into two sides (called conferences) ‘East’ and ‘West’. Teams play 34-games from in a fixture that runs from March through October. Like MLS, the USL also ends the season with playoffs. The USL Championship is a fully professional league and all players are paid.
Affiliation with MLS: Some of the teams are affiliated with MLS clubs, as the current rules permit MLS clubs to field reserve teams in USL or affiliate with USL clubs. In fact most MLS clubs have either an affiliation or field reserve teams. This agreement is subject to change in the future.
Note: Many of the early USL clubs signed a five-year franchise agreement with the league. That five-year term, depending on the club, may expire at the end of 2018 or 2019. The USL has recognized this potential difficulty and in 2016, took measures to incentivize owners to remain in the league. An increased expansion fees was one, while another is a smaller fee of $10,000 to renew membership for another term. This time, the new term is for 10 years.
USL LEAGUE ONE (3rd tier of US Soccer – as of 14 Dec 2018)
During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, US Soccer had no third division. That gap is now filled with the arrival of USL One. USL applied for Third Division status for its League One in August 2018; the USSF granted a provisional third division status on December 14, 2018.
Employing the successful methodology utilized by the USL to establish the largest professional soccer league in North America, the USL League One expansion efforts center on markets that meet the following criteria:
Strong local ownership
Primary owner with a net worth in excess of $10 million and 35% or greater share of the potential franchise
Seating Capacity: 3,500
Pitch Size: 110 yards x 70 yards
Viable market size and support
Markets with a population between 150,000 to one million and a strong corporate and fan base for support.
The expansion fee for USL D3 teams is believed to be $500,000, and teams are expected to spend between $2.4 million and $5.1 million during their first season of play. USL One is also regarded as a professional league.
For the 2019 season, there will be ten teams competing (9 from the US plus Toronto FC II) in a 28 fixture season. Expansion clubs for 2020 include the Rochester Rhinos and Harrisburg, PA side Penn FC. The latter club is in the process of finding a suitable home stadium and opted to sit out the 2019 season.
USL LEAGUE TWO (4th tier -unofficial)
(f/k/a Premier Development League “PDL”)
USL League Two continues the mission of the PDL, the leader in pre-professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada. The League holds a vital role as it continues to provide the elite platform for those pursuing professional careers domestically and internationally.
League Two aims to be more than the leading national U23 league: League Two bills itself as “the defined and proven pathway for players to progress to the professional ranks of soccer while becoming a staple within the community in which the team operates.”
League Two clubs have partnerships with MLS and USL Championship Clubs. At present, there are 74 clubs in League Two.
USL League Two is divided into 4 conferences: Eastern, Southern, Central and Western.
The USL League Two regular season takes place during the summer from early May to mid-July. Each team plays a 14-fixture season against their respective divisional opponents, seven games at home and seven away. Following the conclusion of the regular season, playoffs occur. The playoffs take place in late July, with each conference champion advancing to the national semifinals and the winners of those matches advancing to the League Two Championship match in early August.
A note about division sanctioning: The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) promulgated criteria and sanctions the first three divisions of soccer in the US. Below the three official divisions as designated by USSF, there are other active leagues; some of these are intrastate competitions or independent leagues. Most, though not all, of these are sanctioned by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA).