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 ¯
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.”