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Fort Lauderdale Strikers Could be Forced Out Of Lockhart Stadium by End of June

2011 June 8
by Brian Quarstad

The Sun Sentinel.com reported on Wednesday morning that the Fort Lauderdale Strikers could be forced out of Lockhart Stadium before the end of the season.

According to the article, both local high school sports and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers could be forced out of the Stadium by June 30th.

The article states:

The FAA has a strong say in what happens at the stadiums because it gave the property along with the land underneath adjacent Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport to the city in 1947.

City officials vowed Tuesday a last-ditch appeal to the Federal Aviation Administration to salvage the teams’ use of the stadiums before they would be forced out at the end of the month. The city thought it had a deal with the FAA to allow the teams to stay while long-term redevelopment plans are negotiated, but the FAA recently laid out new demands.

The FAA’s position has stunned the city, the school system and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers soccer team.

Lockhart Stadium

The article explains that the 20,000 seat Lockhart Stadium, which clearly has seen been days, has been the home of high school sports to Fort Lauderdale schools for 50 years. It is currently the home field for both Fort Lauderdale High School and Stranahan High School football teams.

Traffic Sports, who owns the Strikers, formerly Miami FC, moved the team to Lockhart last season. The team also uses the stadium as their training grounds.

The FAA has plans to work with the Schlitterbahn Development Group to build a new water park resort as well as a recreational complex for local sports. The proposal for the new development is believed to be around $110 million and could draw as many as 10,000 visitors a day.

“We will try to do everything possible to make sure these teams can stay,” Mayor Jack Seiler said.

IMS talked to a source from Miami on Wednesday who did not want to go on record but was familiar with the situation. The source explained that the FAA owns the property that Lockhart Stadium sits on. The Ft. Lauderdale Public Schools then leases that land from the FAA and rents the stadium out to the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

According to the source, they believed the situation to be more fluid than the Sun Sentinel represented and seemed optimistic that the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers would be able to strike a deal that would take them through the end of the NASL season. A new lease would have to be struck with the FAA which would take them through the playoffs. However, that new lease could also mean a rent increase for the Strikers.

That same source also believed that the FAA would hold fast on the requirement for the school district to move out by June 30th deadline.

If the Strikers were forced to leave the stadium at the end of the year they would surely have to find an interim situation for the team for the 2012 season. But the new water park/recreational area could be an ideal location to build a new soccer specific stadium for the Strikers.

The North American Soccer League was contacted for a statement. They told IMS they would not be making any comments but they are monitoring the situation closely.

6 Responses
  1. Bart permalink
    June 9, 2011

    This is a damn shame. Fan attendance is up for the first time in years, and it appears that the Strikers were finally starting to act like a professional club.

    This just goes to show the US how difficult it is to retain quality venues at the lower level soccer divisions. If it ain’t one thing it is another. How can one build any quality, long term business plan in an environment so hostile, and frankly disrespectful, to the sport?

    Yes, one can argue that the FAA should have the right to take the property for air right safety purposes, but the article discusses the FAA wanting the revenue off the venue. Is this the government’s way of recouping the TARP funds? I know we have a trillion dollar deficit, but the dollars generated would not pay back China in any meaningful way……

  2. June 9, 2011

    The part that bugs me is that the FAA wants all the revenue from the schools and Strikers, but surely they know that they don’t make much, if any revenue. And any profits they do make are pretty vital to the success and viability of each. And they are throwing a fit now after 50+ years of the agreement with the city and it’s high schools, and 4 pro soccer teams over the years.

    Also important to note is that the Strikers team offices and training ground are located across the street at Fort Lauderdale Stadium(the baseball stadium, former spring home of the Orioles and before that Yankees). It’s now only used for 1-2 baseball events per year and the back fields have been converted to soccer. Any lease extension needs to include FTL Stadium as kicking the Strikers out would severely hamper team operations.

    Hopefully they get something worked out ASAP, at least to see the club through the end of the season and hopefully the playoffs. If they have to play somewhere else next year, the 5K set cricket stadium in nearby Lauderhill, where MLS has held it’s last 2 Combines, is the best option. After that the best place may be FAU’s new football stadium in Boca Raton which opens this fall.

    The Schlitterbahn Water Park at first seemed like a death blow to the complex, but now it may be the only hope to save soccer at the historic site. Last I heard the plan was to convert the baseball stadium area to the waterpark, revamp Lockhart, and add new soccer training fields on the south side of Lockhart. If that happens then the Strikers moving somewhere else for a year or two while that is constructed would work.

  3. June 9, 2011

    In the long run this could be a very good thing for the Strikers. Knowing what little I know about Tim Robbie, I would guess he is all over this and has been so for a while. Most likely he is a couple steps ahead. The problem of course is that they are dealing with the FAA. Not exactly like dealing with the Ft. Lauderdale City Council.

  4. June 9, 2011

    They’ve been having a back and forth with the FAA/city since they moved to the facility. Traffic wanted to turn the baseball stadium into a soccer academy, but the city and FAA chose the water park plan instead.

    If it ends up that the water park gets built, and in the process Lockhart gets renovated, that would be fabulous(especially helpful for any future MLS bid). But to deny the Strikers the ability to finish out their season, and deny the HS Football teams the use of the field in the fall, is stupid considering nothing is finalized for the land yet. If they had bulldozers and cranes waiting to start work that’s one thing, but the water park deal is far from done.

  5. Strikers Return permalink
    June 9, 2011

    From what I’ve read an heard, the waterpark is a completely separate issue. F19 is right. When news of the waterpark first surfaced, some Miami FC fans got angry. After all, it meant the city was going with the waterpark proposal over Traffic’s soccer academy one. But there really wasn’t any choice in the matter for the city as the FAA is the one with the final say. They’ve said they would be willing to negotiate on the waterpark proposal as long as the company was willing to pay “fair market value” in leasing the land. Add in the fact that Schlitterbahn’s proposal called for $0 in tax payer money, and the city couldn’t possibly refuse. Also, Schlitterbahn has experience in dealing with the FAA in just this type of situation in Texas with one of it’s other parks.

    But the key factor I saw all along that would actually make this a positive for the Strikers was the fact that the proposal included renovating Lockhart and adding the practice fields like F19 said. They want the Strikers to stay. Coupled with the renewed love affair between the Strikers organization and the city of Ft. Lauderdale (due in large part to Mr. Robbie, I think you’re right on with this point BQ and I think he’s a big reason the mayor is going to bat for the team) I think they should be able to work out a reasonable lease agreement for the Strikers to call an improved Lockhart stadium and grounds home for the foreseeable future.

    But at all hinges on the FAA. Sorry about my earlier pessimism, but in the end, everything hinges on them. If they, for some unfathomable reason, decide to give everyone the proverbially finger, it’s all done for, and the Strikers are going to have a real hard time finding a permanent home in Broward. I desperately hope your sources are right about the prospects of this BQ.

  6. June 9, 2011

    Just talked to Tim Robbie, pres of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. He’s very positive about the situation. Hopefully will have story up tonight/AM

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