Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lockhart Stadium, Ft. Lauderdale FL

Basic Information
Team: Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (North American Soccer League)
Game: 4/11/15-Strikers vs Ottawa Fury
Team Website: www.strikers.com
Ticket Information: www.strikers.com
Tourism Information: (800) 22-SUNNY or www.sunny.org
Online Broadcasts: www.sofloradio.com
Local Newspaper: Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel www.sunsentinel.com

Team History: While this edition of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers has only been around since 2011, Ft. Lauderdale has hosted professional soccer since 1977, when the Miami Toros of the original North American Soccer League moved 30 miles up I-95 to intimate Lockhart Stadium. The team, under colorful coach Ron Newman, began to take hold, and by the end of that first campaign, sellout crowds of eleven thousand began to pack the stadium. The Strikers thrived during those years, and the stadium was expanded periodically, growing to a capacity of over 20,000. The Strikers moved to Minnesota after the 1983 season, but pro soccer established was in Broward County, as several other clubs called Lockhart home. In 1998, the ill-fated Miami Fusion of MLS played at Lockhart for 3 seasons before being folded by the league. In 2009, the story went full circle, as the Miami FC club of the USL moved up to Ft. Lauderdale, and in 2011, the Strikers name was reborn.  

Seating Capacity: Lockhart Stadium has a total capacity of 20,450, however the north grandstand is not sold for Strikers matches, reducing capacity to about 14,000.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened in 1959, Lockhart Stadium was part of a sports complex which also featured Ft. Lauderdale Stadium, a ballpark which until recently, was used by several Major League teams for Spring Training. The home of the Strikers, originally designed to host track and field and high school football, was named for Doug Lockhart, a former Ft. Lauderdale city commissioner.

Other Tenants: Lockhart is still used by several local high schools for football and soccer.

Getting There: From I-95, exit onto Commercial Blvd westbound. Follow for approximately a a half mile, then turn right onto NW 12th Ave. Follow NW 12th Ave for approximately a half mile, and the stadium will be on your left.

On The Town: With an average high temperature of 77 degrees, Ft. Lauderdale is a true "all-season" playground.
Located on the southeast coast of the State of Florida, Ft. Lauderdale is 23 miles north of Miami and is the seat of Broward County. The city has a population of 165,000, but if you include the remainder of the south Florida metropolitan area (which includes Dade and Palm Beach counties), the total population of the area is over five million. Ft. Lauderdale is serviced by Interstate 95 and Florida's Turnpike, which run on either side of the city, and I-595 which cuts across it east to west.

The city got it's name from William Lauderdale, who led a detachment of soldiers in building a fort on the site where the city now stands during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842). However, development of the city did not start until fifty years after the war ended.

The area was originally inhabited by the Tequestra indian tribe. However, when Spanish explorers came to the area in the 17th century, they unwittingly brought smallpox to the area. The Tequestra had no immunity to the disease, and combining that with frequent conflicts with their neighboring tribes, the Tequestra slowly shrank in numbers, until the final members of the tribe were evacuated to Cuba when the Spanish ceded Florida to England in 1763.

Ft. Lauderdale began to grow in 1896, when the Florida East Coast railroad came through the area, and by the 1920's, the area boomed in population. By the time World War II was underway, Ft. Lauderdale became a major military base, with a Naval Air Station and a Coast Guard station was built. After the war, another population boom hit the area, dwarfing the one earlier in the century.

Famous Ft. Lauderdale natives include former NFL great wide receiver Isaac Bruce, NBA star Mitch Richmond, and tennis legend Chris Evert.

Major Airports: Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport is 12 miles south of Lockhart Stadium.

What To Do Before The Game: This was a quick trip for me, so I didn't have a lot of opportunity for sightseeing.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There isn't a lot on Commercial Blvd on the approach to the stadium other than fast food. There is a McDonalds, a Miami Subs, and a Waffle House at the intersection of Commercial and Powerline Rd (the only major intersection between I-95 and NW 12th Ave).

Where To Stay: For simple convenience, you can't do better than the Red Roof Inn on Powerline Rd. If you were so inclined, you could walk to Lockhart from the Red Roof, but the area is a bit dicey, especially at night. However, that shouldn't dissuade you from choosing the Red Roof it you plan on attending a Strikers game. All of the rooms are comfortable, and at approximately $80.00 per night, it's not a bad deal. For more information, call (800) THE ROOF or www.redroof.com.
Ticket Prices: The Strikers have two ticket options: Reserved Seats (main grandstand) are $20.00 if you purchase in advance ($25.00 on game day) and general admission (goal view) are $12.00 in advance ($15.00 on game day). The supporters section is located in sections 131 and 132 in the east grandstand.

Getting In: The main entrance to Lockhart is in front of the south grandstand. Once you get in there is a small courtyard which has picnic tables, assorted inflatables for children, the souvenir trailer, and concession stands.

The Good Seats: The south grandstand is the "main" grandstand used for Striker matches. It is a combination of plastic "bucket" seats and aluminum backless bleachers. The east and west grandstands have all aluminum backless bleachers.

Parking: There is a large gravel lot in front of the stadium which serves as a parking area. Parking here costs $7.00.

Stadium Food: To be honest, there isn't much. There is a smallish stand directly under the south grandstand which serves the basic items. Service is OK, not great. Here is a selection of prices:

Hot Dog: $2.50   Nachos: $3.00   Pretzel: 3.00   Large Soda: $3.00   Pizza Slice: $4.00

I ordered the pizza slice. It was filling, acceptable taste-wise, and that was about it. I did get a pretzel at half time being served out of a small cart in the entrance area. It was freshly made, cooked over charcoal, and salted to my taste. It was quite tasty and definitely quashed the hunger.

ATM: None

Souvenirs: There was a trailer next to the south grandstand which was run by a local soccer shop. They had an average sized line of merchandise, which to my eyes, was fairly well priced. I purchased a Strikers scarf, which was a bargain at $10.00 (most scarves I've purchased cost somewhere in the $15-$25 range.

Restrooms: There are two sets of restrooms, a permanent set under the south grandstand, and a "temporary" looking set on the west side of the stadium. The permanent men's was in fairly good order. The other set was....about what you would expect.

Mascot: Hot Shot, a human character with a flaming red hair do was a carry over from when the team was known as Miami FC.

Dance Team: The Striker Girls performed a few numbers during the game and passed out programs to fans entering the stadium.

Program: A complimentary full-color program was handed out to fans entering the stadium. An interesting feature was the listing of each Striker player's twitter handle with the roster.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: Lockhart has two scoreboards. The west side scoreboard is used for advertisements and player pictures, as it has animation capability. The problem is that the sun sets right behind the scoreboard and makes it difficult to see at times. Above the east stand is a smaller scoreboard which shows the score, time, and pertinent game information. The stadium's PA announcer is good, and the music selection is OK.

Stadium Staff:  Abundant and helpful.
Atmosphere: I was a little disappointed at the opening night crowd, which was in the four thousand range. However, it was a lively crowd, led by the bunch in Flight 19, the Strikers' main supporters group. Like any good supporters group, they were up and enthusiastic, singing and chanting for the entire ninety minutes. When the Strikers scored what would be the game winning goal late in the second half, the game winning goal scorer (I can't remember his name), immediately ran to the Flight 19 section, leaping into the arms of the fans.

Overall Rating: OK. Lockhart will never be confused with a modern soccer facility with all of the bells and whistles. However, the team makes do with what they have to work with, and the home of the Strikers is a lively place to watch a match on a gorgeous, cloudless, Florida night.