David Beckham says he’s really building two Florida soccer stadiums, it’s not just leverage to play cities against each other

The Fort Lauderdale city commission gave approval yesterday to David Beckham’s Inter Miami to build a new 18,000-seat soccer stadium at the site of 60-year-old Lockhart Stadium — or at least, approval to enter into exclusive negotiations to do so. That makes this a good time for me to expand on my brief mention on Friday of how and why Beckham is going ahead with this seemingly crazy scheme to build two stadiums in adjacent cities for one team.

As you may recall, back in November Miami voters approved giving Inter Miami the rights to build a new stadium at Melreese golf course, the third or fourth (I’ve lost track by now) proposed stadium site for the MLS expansion team. Or rather, approved giving Inter’s owners the right to negotiate a stadium with the Miami city commission; nothing substantive has happened with those negotiations since then, and last week Miami commissioners voted to set a September deadline for Beckham’s group to figure things out, or else it will reopen the site to other bidders.

At the same time, Inter is set to begin play next year, and when both the Marlins and Dolphins owners turned down a chance to play host to Inter Miami games in 2020 because of scheduling concerns, it left the team with a home field of ¯_(ツ)_/¯. So Beckham and co-owner Jorge Mas turned to Lockhart Stadium, where the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL previously played, as the site of a new 18,000-seat stadium that they said they would build with $60 million in private money, use for two seasons as Inter Miami’s home, then turn into a training ground and youth team stadium, with construction to begin in August and be completed by next March. This on top of spending $1 billion for a permanent soccer stadium plus a whole lot of other stuff like hotels and office space, and paying rent on the site to boot, back in Miami.

If that sounds a little crazy to you, you’re not alone. Sure, they’re doing amazing things with pop-up stadiums these days, but seven months is still an extremely tight construction timeline, and then a no-frills stadium is likely to age poorly, even as just the home of an under-21 team. And building two stadiums for one team with private money, though certainly welcome in an age when most owners won’t even build one stadium with private money, seems like an extremely odd business plan, even if you have a pile of cash left over from getting your franchise for a discount $25 million expansion fee instead of $150 million in exchange for agreeing to play your declining years in the U.S.

The obvious suspicion here, especially given Inter’s foot-dragging on stadium negotiations in Miami, is that this is part interim solution and part leverage play — if the talks over Melreese go poorly, Beckham and Mas have a backup site ready to go. And while they’re saying that’s not the case, Mas issued a pretty non-denial denial about it:

“We don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “I’m planning on playing at Miami Freedom Park in 2022 but if for some reason that option isn’t available, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

My personal theory is that Beckham and Mas are less interested in actual stadiums than in collecting enough stadium renderings to paper their living room walls with. They’re well on their way!

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9 comments on “David Beckham says he’s really building two Florida soccer stadiums, it’s not just leverage to play cities against each other

  1. This is like a case study in losing momentum. When it was announced all those years back that he’d be getting a team upon retirement it was HUGE news. You’d have bet big money back then that his team would have already been playing games by now. Instead, it’s been a never-ending process. He’s not in the press nearly as much any more since he retired and the story has become the problems and delays more than him having a team.

  2. Yeah, about that… Didn’t the Melreese site end up having some massive environmental issues (that the club or city may or may not have to clean up to build a stadium instead of the golf course/clubhouse on it now)?

    I’d go with option II here… I don’t think they believe they will be playing anywhere but at Lockhart for the foreseeable future. Never discount the possibility that once in place (and drawing roughly as well as the Fusion did) the owners might be able to more successfully stump for a heavily subsidized permanent facility, but it seems unlikely they’ll get one to me.

    The Loria effect is still strong in south Florida.

    On the flip side… does anyone think the sort of change of heart on the part of the owners might be an indication that MLS finally issued a private ultimatum to the ownership group? IE: we’ve held this franchise for you for longer than you actually played in the league (or as a non-youth player if this drags out much longer)… so you know what or get off the pot…

    1. Yes melreese is a superfund site. Through their negotiations the Beckham group agreed “in principal” to find the cleanup – but we can’t be sure how much it will cost or how long it will take.

      There’s an oddity in that there is a mistaken belief that voters approved the stadium, when in fact they agreed to let the Beckham group negotiate for the stadium.

      But the city commission is reluctant and there are a few people on it who are open in their contempt toward co-owner Mas.

      So yesterday there was a comment that the team saw everything in Miami as cow pastures – which will not help in negotiations.

      The Lockhart deal isn’t so bad and does include some new youth soccer fields, an academy, and team headquarters.

      No idea where this will go…

  3. I’ve been saying teams should get two stadiums for years, but only if they can the public to pay for it. Beckham didn’t read my playbook thoroughly.

    1. Sounds good.

      We paying fans already submit to dynamic pricing (which isn’t for ‘your’ benefit, no matter how many times they say it).

      Why not dynamic stadiuming too?

      Why should your team owner have to pay to have the big stadium cleaned when only a minor opponent is showing up and the place won’t be full? That’s an unfair burden on the franchise owner, obviously…

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