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Official Review by Jackson Wolek, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Lockhart Stadium is old. There is no way around that fact. How old you ask? it was built originally as a facility for high school athletics in 1959. Since then it has been used for many different teams, including the non-existent Miami Fusion, FAU football and now the Ft.Lauderdale Strikers. While the stadium has a unique atmosphere about it, and loyal fan support, it is in no doubt in need of mass improvements. Whether the money is ever put into the improvements for a NASL soccer team is a whole different issue.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The cool thing about eating here during a Strikers game is that you can really get a true taste of the Hispanic culture. There are great food vendors outside the stadium during the tailgate that sell all kinds of Hispanic treats. Inside the stadium, you can get around the same type of food, but at higher prices. So, I would suggest that if you are going to eat at the game, go to one of the food trucks outside the stadium run by locals rather than inside. There is, of course, your every "run of the mill" hamburgers and hotdogs if you so choose.
On the beverage-side, I think the best opportunity at getting a nice cold beer, or two, or three or even more is at the Duffy's section of the stadium. It is located on the actual field behind one of the goalposts. It allows you to drink unlimited beer during the game unless you are deemed too drunk while watching the game on the field behind the goalpost for $30. It is a big draw for fans, and a great promotion from the local chain-restaurant in Florida.
I was pleasantly delighted at the atmosphere of the stadium for the Strikers game. I didn't realize how much support the South Florida community had for an NASL soccer organization. Not only do they fill half the stadium, but they have a very strong group of supporters who dress up in the teams colors and sing and chant the entire game. It is really something fun to watch, and defintely keeps the everyday person going to the game interested. Besides that, the atmosphere can be kind of dull at times. So, it is safe to say that without the crazy fans who support the team religiously, it may not be such a great place to see a soccer match.
The surrounding area of the stadium is nothing too special. There are lots of places that you can go grab a bit to eat, but nothing out of this world. Downtown Ft. Lauderdale is always a nice place to visit at night with lots of bars and clubs, but it is a relatively long distance away, something you would have to drive to rather than walk. Had the stadium been built in downtown, it would have made a world of a difference. Sadly, it is in a mainly residential/business area, so it would be wise to just enjoy the game at the stadium and, if you want, drive downtown after.
I think that the fans were the best part of the game I attended. The fans were intense, and really knew the game of soccer well. Also, they knew all of the players names and got into the minds of the opponent's players. There was security on hand throughout the stadium in case anything outrageous happened, but it didn't. Fans even tailgate before the game as if it was an American football game they were about to go watch. There is also a tradition that the fans have that if you are wearing the other teams colors at the tailgate area, they give you a beer! Overall, I can say that the fans were really top notch.
I kind of have a beef with the $5 parking price here. I get that the stadium and team needs money, but I think there are better ways around it than to charge for parking. That being said, the best place to park is around the tailgate area, where you will truly get the best experience. None of the parking spaces are too far away from the stadium, which is a good thing. As far as the restrooms go, well let's just say that you should keep in mind that this stadium was built in 1959.
My personal feeling is that for $13 you get a good enough experience while at the game with the type of fans that show up to make it exciting. However, the stadium itself is in need of a major upgrade. For example, the suites that they have are outdoors, and on lawn chairs for $35. The bleachers for the general admission are very uncomfortable. The seven extra dollars for more comfortable bleacher seating is not worth it either. It's fair to say that you don't come for the stadium, you come for the team and the fans. And you must be really dedicated to do so more than once.
When I return to Lockhart Stadium, I will absolutely do the Party on the Pitch ticket. For $35 you can drink as much as you want during the game while behind a goal on the field. It doesn't really get much better than that for watching a soccer match in my opinion. That is the best extra of them all.
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