Fort Lauderdale Strikers President Tim Robbie Optimistic About Team’s Future at Lockhart Stadium
On Thursday, IMS reported on a story from the Fort Lauderdale Sentinel. The story claimed the Fort Lauderdale Strikers professional soccer team, which plays in the NASL, could be forced out of Lockhart Stadium by the end of the June. It reported a land lease issue involving the Broward County school district who owns Lockhart Stadium and their lease of the land which it sits on. The land is owned by the FAA. The story said the FAA has owned the property since 1947 and they currently have plans to sell the land to the Schlitterbahn Development Group who want to build a water park and recreation complex including a resort.
IMS spoke to Strikers president Tim Robbie by phone on Thursday and his attitude was quite upbeat about the situation and painted a very different picture than Thursday’s Sun Sentinel article. In fact, Robbie stated that as far as he knew the Sun Sentinel never contacted the Strikers organization for comment.
Robbie says the Strikers do have a contingency plan should they have to move out at the end of the month but he just doesn’t see that plan needing to be put in place.
“It may seem unusual to have a lease expire in the middle of our season,” explained Robbie. “Our lease coincides with the Broward County lease extension which was granted a couple of years ago. And of course the school primarily runs fall events here at Lockhart. The school board were unwilling to do a sell/lease that went beyond their existing agreement. That’s the reason we’re in this predicament in the middle of our season.”
“It’s difficult to envision a scenario that would not allow us to complete our season here at Lockhart,” said Robbie. “The city of Fort Lauderdale and particularly Mayor Jack Seiler are working very diligently behind the scenes in order to assure there will be no interruption of the Strikers season. I think the chances of us having to move out this season are very, very remote.”
Robbie said part of the Schlitterbahn Development Group’s plan to build a new water park resort as well as a recreational complex for local sports at the site is to possibly renovate Lockhart Stadium.
Robbie says he personally has only talked to the Schlitterbahn group once, several weeks ago, where they updated him with the status of their negotiations with the FAA. But he says Traffic USA president Aaron Davidson and other Traffic officials have had numerous conversations with the Schlitterbahn group.
“Aaron Davidson and the Traffic Sports people have had other conversations with key members at the highest level of Schlitterbahn and all the discussions have been very positive,” said the Strikers president, Robbie. “They would rather have Lockhart and the Strikers here than not. They understand and appreciate the synergies that can exist between a professional soccer club and a water park as well as having other sorts of soccer activities on the complex. It makes a lot of sense as far as they are concerned. They are prepared to work hand-in-hand with the Strikers organization to ensure the long term viability of pro soccer at this complex if in fact it ends up being a water park and resort.
Robbie explained that if things go as planned he sees the whole scenario being a very positive and exciting development for the Strikers. “This would be a tremendous long term solution for this entire situation,” stated Robbie. “We expect to be playing here throughout the remainder of the season. We are hopeful that by the end of the 2011 Schlitterbahn will have negotiated a deal with the FAA to purchase the property and they will start to develop it which would ensure our long term viability at the facility.”
Depending on the amount of modifications and upgrades that would be done at Lockhart, Robbie says his team would gladly move out for a year or two.
“If the organization knew they would be coming back to a renovated facility that would have additional soccer fields, not just for the Strikers but for youth tournaments and a youth club, that would be a whole different kind of move. We would gladly make that move.”
Robbie was asked about a Miami Ultras emergency meeting that was to be held on Thursday evening to discuss what could be done to keep the Strikers at Lockhart. Robbie said he appreciated the Ultras support and concern but felt that meeting was premature. He said he had also heard of plans to protest at Saturday evening’s game where the Strikers match up against the Minnesota Stars. “My reaction to that is where are the bad guys? There won’t be anyone from the FAA at the game and they will be protesting something that everyone at the match will be in agreement with. I just don’t think it’s necessary at this point and time.”
Here is the Schlitterbahn water park plan.