I remember, back in 1998, when the Miami Fusion (RIP) hosted D.C. United and then-head coach Bruce Arena at the newly refurbished Lockhart Stadium.
"This is great," Arena said in the pregame interview on ESPN (or ESPN2, I don't remember which). "Now we need a dozen more like it."
A decade-and-a-half later, there's more than a dozen not just "like" Lockhart, but "significantly better than" the storied old facility out in Fort Lauderdale. And while the Fusion are long gone, the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers have been reborn and are thriving in the (also reborn) NASL, North America's second division.
On Tuesday, Strikers owners Traffic Sports announced that either Lockhart will get another facelift, or they'll just build a brand new soccer-specific stadium of their own.
“Traffic Sports has given me a mandate to seek a permanent, first class home for the Strikers,” said Tim Robbie, newly named managing director of team personnel and stadium development, in a press release. “Our top priority is to work with the city of Fort Lauderdale to renovate Lockhart Stadium as part of the overall development of the area.
"However, we are prepared to explore any and all options for a new soccer facility in the South Florida area. Given the numerous meetings and conversations I have had on the matter, I am optimistic our efforts to find a worthy, long-term home for the Strikers will be successful.”
If "Tim Robbie" sounds familiar, it's because he's the son of Joe Robbie, the first owner of the Miami Dolphins. In 1987, Joe was able to put together a financing package that culminated in the construction of Joe Robbie Stadium, now known as SunLife Stadium (and still home of the NFL's Dolphins).
This all comes on the heels of MLS Commissioner Don Garber's State of the League address last week, in which he said that for southeastern expansion to happen in MLS, better stadiums are a must. Almost immediately following that, a new Tampa group announced its own plans for a soccer-specific stadium, an eventual MLS franchise, and a USL Pro team in the interim.
For now, however, the Strikers seem content to give it a go in the NASL.
“It’s an honor to serve as the president of one of the most historic soccer franchises in America,” said Tom Mulroy, who succeeds Robbie in that role. “It’s very exciting to become president of the clubwith the growth of the NASL and to have the opportunity to work side by side with Tim Robbie to fulfill this commitment of establishing a permanent home stadium for the Strikers. I am thrilled to be part of it all.”
I like to think this is because of the Tampa stadium plans that were announced. The team plays at a less than half empty Lockhart Stadium now in the NASL. I like to think that the MLS will just expand and US soccer just goes nuts.