Judge rules Beckham group can knock down Fort Lauderdale stadium
The ruling is a blow to losing bidder FXE Futbol, represented by Miami attorney David Winker
A judge denied a motion to stop David Beckham and his partners from demolishing Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale and redeveloping it as a training facility and a temporary stadium for Inter Miami, their Major League Soccer team.
The order by Broward Circuit Judge Raag Singhal late Friday paved the way for demolition of the city-owned Lockhart Stadium by Miami Beckham United LLC, the owner of Inter Miami. Starting in 2020, the soccer team plans to play home games during its first two seasons at a new stadium on the site, next to the city-owned Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
The judge denied a motion for a temporary injunction filed by FXE Futbol LLC, a company that proposed spending $35 million to renovate the stadium for a professional soccer team in the United States Soccer Federation, or USS, a lesser league than the top-level MLS.
“I respect Judge Singhal very much, but disagree with his conclusions as to our right to temporary injunction, and will be appealing. We also look forward to continuing to pursue our underlying case,” David Winker, an attorney for FXE Futbol, said in a statement. Winker has also pursued legal action against the city of Miami over how it handled the Melreese stadium deal with Miami Beckham United.
Miami Beckham United made an unsolicited offer on Jan. 28 to design, build and occupy a replacement for Lockhart Stadium that would remain city-owned property and would serve as a temporary home stadium for the Inter Miami soccer team, also known as Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami.
Fort Lauderdale city commissioners voted Feb. 5 to issue a public notice that detailed the unsolicited proposal by Miami Beckham United and invited competing proposals for Lockhart Stadium. In a conference meeting on March 16, the commissioners unanimously rated Miami Beckham United’s proposal superior to one by FXE Futbol, which submitted the sole competing proposal.
At a commission meeting on April 2, Fort Lauderdale commissioners unanimously approved an interim agreement to allow Miami Beckman United to start redeveloping Lockhart Stadium while negotiating a comprehensive agreement.
John Shubin, Miami Beckham United’s lawyer, said in a statement that the judge’s decision confirms that the process “was both lawful and fair” and that the ownership group hopes “that we have seen the end of this meritless litigation.”
FXE Futbol sued April 15 to undo the city’s deal with Miami Beckham United, then filed a motion April 23 for a temporary injunction to prevent demolition of the stadium.
The company claimed in its lawsuit that the city of Fort Lauderdale skipped steps required by state law in selecting the stadium reconstruction plan by Miami Beckham United as its preferred proposal. For example, the city did not arrange for a third-party, professional review of the competing proposals.
But in his order denying the injunction, Judge Singhal wrote that FXE Futbol failed to provide “evidence of the likelihood that its proposal would have been ranked first if any such ‘professional review’ had been performed on the proposals.”
Miami Beckham United has been trying to build a permanent 25,000-seat stadium for Inter Miami as part of a $1 billion commercial complex called Miami Freedom Park, which would replace the city-owned Melreese golf course in Miami.
In late March, a ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Mavel Ruiz preserved the outcome of a referendum last November, when 60 percent of Miami voters authorized the city government to negotiate a 99-year lease of the Melreese property to Miami Beckham United.