MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Lockhart Stadium is on the brink of a facelift. The post-apocalyptic looking soccer stadium and baseball field will soon be torn down.
It will be the official training site and temporary home field for South Florida’s new MLS club, Inter Miami CF.
“For us there’s been some obstacles, there’s been difficulty, but hats off to the city of Fort Lauderdale and the leadership provided by the mayor and the commissioners there to really allow us to begin construction in terms of getting for March of 2020,” Part-owner Jorge Mas told CBS4.
Mas, his partner David Beckham, and the rest of the ownership group say they’ll kick off the team’s inaugural season next March.
Inter Miami will playing its first two seasons at Lockhart.
“Site work is going to begin for that,” explained Mas. “We’re going to prioritize the fields so we can get those built out as quickly as possible. The facility will be built in conjunction with the stadium. We were finalizing the designs of the stadium actually this morning (Friday, May 9th). We’re working on the final designs of the canopies, on the exterior look, we’re going to start getting that fabricated quickly. Demolition will actually begin in probably about ten days.”
Foundation work begins in June and July, while the erection of the stadium starts in October, with a target date of completion set for February.
Mas says the goal is to have a first class team with facilities to match to ensure the club becomes a global brand.
To do that, Mas believes a stadium in Miami would be pivotal.
Inter Miami is expecting word on the Melreese location for Miami Freedom Park in the next 60 to 90 days.
“The next step for us is to negotiate a final lease with the City of Miami,” said Mas. “The City of Miami is picking a law firm in order to assist them in the negotiations of this lease, or development deal, which I frankly think is not complicated. We’ll be able to get that done quickly.”
Mas is confident a firm will be selected in the next two weeks and the process of negotiating will begin soon thereafter. Then it goes to a commission vote.
With “zero city contribution”, Mas believes he can get a unanimous decision. Inter Miami wants to open doors in Miami-Dade in 2022, but to do that they’ll need the lease approval to happen in the next 2 to 3 months.
“We’re going to have surprises for our fans in 2022,” Mas said hinting at possible big-time free agent signings.
WATCH: Full, uncut interview with Inter Miami co-owner Jorge Mas on CBS4 Sports Desk
In ten months, the team not only needs to have somewhere to play, but they will need actual players.
Inter Miami will be active in the upcoming MLS Draft, having one of the top-2 picks this year.
They’re competing for players with Nashville which also has an expansion team. However, Mas tells CBS4 that fans can expect the club to be big players in the free agent market overseas.
“If you go into our offices, I’ve seen at least 12 potential rosters,” said Mas.
Inter Miami has targeted 8 or 9 players from European teams, players who also play on their international teams.
Mas says they’ve not only met with players, but deals could be announced by the end of the summer. In the MLS teams can sign 3 designated players which can put them over the salary cap.
In addition, Mas himself has been to Europe several times interview potential coaches. He says the list of possible head coaches is narrowed down to three.
“I think you’re going to see a tremendously talented team,” said Mas. “I’ve always emphasized we’re going to win. In South Florida you have to win. We will be a winning team from day one.”
Fans will be able to see the first team begin practice in January, but the future stars of this team will begin practicing in June.
Paul McDonough, Inter Miami’s Sporting Director, has spearheaded a group that scouted 6,000 young men from the area, tried out 650, and from there selected 160 for the youth academy.
While signing high priced free agents may soon be Miami’s calling card, growing local talent to feed the top team will ideally be the backbone for the club.
Mas says you can expect to see their top academy team traveling to compete on an international level as well.