Miami: David Beckham's tortuous quest to find a home for his Inter Miami Major League Soccer franchise received a boost on Friday after a Florida judge approved plans to build a new stadium in neighbouring Fort Lauderdale.
The former England captain's ownership group was forced to go before a court in South Florida on Wednesday to obtain permission to demolish the crumbling Lockhart Stadium.
The stadium, home of the now-defunct Fort Lauderdale Strikers, is around 25 miles north of Miami. Beckham's group plans to build a new 18,000-seat arena at the site in time for Inter Miami's MLS debut in 2020.
Work on the new venue will begin immediately in the wake of Friday's court ruling, which followed a legal battle with sports entertainment company FXE Futbol, which had sought an injunction against Beckham's project.
FXE had been in talks with city officials for over a year about renovating rather than demolishing Lockhart Stadium before Beckham's group swooped for the site.
But Judge Raag Singhal ruled Friday there were no grounds to block the Beckham group's $60 million project.
Inter Miami plan to use Lockhart for two seasons following their entrance into MLS next year, while a planned $1 billion permanent home at Melreese Country Club near Miami airport, is completed.
But FXE had been sharply critical of what they called a "rushed" decision over the proposals.
FXE accused city officials of failing to adhere to state guidelines while questioning Inter Miami's claims that the site needed to be demolished because of an asbestos problem.
John Shubin, an attorney representing Beckham's group, welcomed Friday's ruling.
"Today's decision confirms that the process that is bringing world class soccer to the City of Fort Lauderdale was both lawful and fair," Shubin said.
"Our client will continue to move forward in good faith with the hard work that needs to be accomplished to convert this process into a reality."
Friday's ruling is the latest development in the Beckham MLS saga which has been embroiled in legal gridlock in the five years since his intention to own a franchise became official.
Lockhart is the sixth proposed site and despite the plans looking impressive, some fans are angry that the new team will be forced outside of Miami.
The future of Inter Miami's planned permanent home at Melreese Country Club, meanwhile, remains shrouded in political uncertainty and doubts ahead of a crucial November vote by Miami commissioners.
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Updated Date: May 04, 2019 14:38:56 IST