A rival to soccer legend David Beckham laid out his vision for Fort Lauderdale’s Lockhart Stadium on Friday, offering a lively remake with shops, restaurants, a Topgolf attraction, sports fields, a jogging pathway and a renovated soccer stadium with a new professional team.
FXE Futbol is hoping to take over the city’s defunct, 64-acre Lockhart Stadium property, resurrecting its rich soccer past. The group is competing against Miami Beckham United to win the city deal.
The empty acreage, north of Commercial Boulevard and west of Interstate 95, attracted thousands of sports fans over the years, to baseball, soccer and football games. For a while, it was slated for a major water park, a deal that collapsed last year.
But Lockhart Stadium and the adjacent Fort Lauderdale Stadium baseball field stand empty now. The Lockhart soccer field is overgrown with weeds and pocked by bare patches, looking as if a tumbleweed might come rolling by.
Highlights of FXE’s proposal:
* Lockhart: The stadium that was home to the Miami Fusion and Fort Lauderdale Strikers soccer teams in years gone by would be renovated.
* Fort Lauderdale Stadium: The adjacent stadium, which once hosted high school football championships and baseball spring training for the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles, would be torn down.
* New team: FXE Futbol would bring a United Soccer League Championship team, its name to be determined. League spokesman Ryan Madden said “we have no doubt that a USL club will do very well there.” A decision by USL about adding a team will be made after the league sees “which proposal the community prefers.” Miami Beckham United proposes a USL League One team, one rung lower.
* Food, drink: Shops and restaurants would be included. No dimensions for the proposed commercial complex were provided. FXE CEO JP Reynal said that would be up to the city.
* Topgolf: The trendy sports entertainment venue would help anchor the complex, taking up 5 acres. A letter from a Topgolf representative indicates the company is “excited about the potential opportunity.” A company out of Atlanta has agreed to finance $35 million for the high-tech golf attraction, according to a letter in the FXE submission. (Another company says it would finance $50 million toward other improvements in the proposal.)
* Sports fields: Eleven fields are proposed. The city would maintain and run four of them, for youth sports. Seven would be competition-level fields, available to the public and for youth sports.
* Open space: The portion that’s green, including sports fields, is 40 acres.
* New park: A 15-acre park would include the four city-run sports fields, plus a dog park, outdoor fitness equipment, beach volleyball, shaded playground, “learning zone,” and space for food trucks or a farmer’s market.
* Pedestrian trail: A “Lockhart Loop” would allow people to walk or run around the 64-acre site.
Reynal said the project could require a $100 million investment, providing 1,000 jobs and attracting 2 million guests a year.
“The venue and park will completely change the way residents, guests, and visitors experience Uptown and the surrounding area of the City of Fort Lauderdale,” he said in the proposal.
The group Envision Uptown — dedicated to reviving the city’s north end — sent the city aletter of support for the FXE Futbol proposal this week.
Reynal’s company name reflects the property’s immediate neighbor, the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, or FXE.
Friday was the city’s deadline for submissions.
Beckham, in a group with Jorge Mas of MasTech, surprised the city three weeks ago with an unsolicited proposal to turn the Lockhart property into a training compound for Inter Miami FS, the soon-to-exist Major League Soccer Team that will play in a stadium to be built in Miami-Dade County.
Miami Beckham United proposes tearing down Lockhart to replace it with a soccer stadium oriented north-south, which the group says is a superior alignment because of the sun. The group would start a youth soccer academy, and would build its administrative offices at the site.
There could be a restaurant if the city wanted it, under the Miami Beckham United proposal, which also offers green space, a dog park, a running trail, playground and public park.
The Lockhart site is one of the city’s largest empty parcels — about two-thirds the size of Holiday Park. City leaders pegged it as one of four “signature” parks to be remade if Fort Lauderdale voters in March approve a $200 million parks bond. The city hasn’t decided how the park improvement plans would be altered if the site is redone by Beckham or FXE.