Talk of a new convention center may have been years in the making, but the centerpiece of the $1 billion Convention Center district enhancement project (which includes a four Diamond Headquarters Hotel, spa, and slew of restaurants and retail spaces) will debut with a bang in 2024. This is just a hint of the new happenings on the horizon. “Greater Fort Lauderdale has evolved from a spring break haven to a sophisticated, upscale tourism destination,” said Amaury Piedra, chairman of the Broward County Tourism Coalition Committee and general manager of the Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina. “Renovating and expanding the Convention Center is another key building block in our growth as a world-class community.”
We’re heralding a revival period of Broward County’s iconic sports venues. Greater Fort Lauderdale alone is home to more than 300 sports venues, from aquatic complexes in Coral Springs and Plantation to soccer fields and sheets of ice where the pros play (BB&T Center, we’re looking at you). This year marks the milestone 25th anniversary season for the Florida Panthers, which, as Panthers President & CEO Matthew Caldwell says, is “about celebrating Panthers history with our loyal fans, paying tribute to our community and charting a course for the next 25 years of Panthers hockey in South Florida.” As part of the festivities, alumni like Billy Lindsay, Ed Jovanovski, Stephen Weiss, Olli Jokinen will mix and mingle with fans at some of the “Legacy Saturdays” home games.
Broward County already brings more than 300 sporting events a year, including the Kreul Classic, the country's largest televised high school basketball tournament; the Masters-level Florida Lacrosse Classic; and the A1A Marathon, a 26.2-mile course through South Florida where the ocean serves as the finish line marker. Now, you can except even more top-notch events when the 64-acre Lockhart stadium launches its inaugural season in Major League Soccer (MLS) in March 2020, reopening following a $60 million renovation plan funded by Inter Miami CF.
As part of the 50-year agreement, David Beckham’s group will construct a new, 18,000-seat stadium, training facility, soccer fields, playground, and public running and walking trails. “Fort Lauderdale acted quickly and decisively to secure this arrangement that moves our city to the next level as a quality place to live,” said City of Fort Lauderdale mayor, Dean J. Trantalis. “Together we greatly expand soccer opportunities for our youth and obtain a signature public park while also gaining an important role in the future of professional soccer in America.”
A $27 million remake of the International Swimming Hall of Fame pool complex is also underway. Part of what Trantalis calls a “game-changing project that will redefine the beach for the next generation,” the complex, which originally opened in 1965 on a 5-acre, manmade peninsula, will feature revamped grandstands and pools, in addition to a new dive well and dive platform. Over the years, 10 world records have been set at the Hall of Fame, and with this much-needed facelift, the venue will surely rise to the top once again, attracting some of the country’s best swimmers when it reopens in October 2020.
The Florida Panthers organization is also privately financing a restoration project for Fort Lauderdale’s historic, Art Deco-style War Memorial Auditorium, adding two indoor ice rinks and a concert venue hosting up to 3,000. "The War Memorial Auditorium stands as a tribute to the individuals who have served our great country, including Medal of Honor recipient and Fort Lauderdale's own Alexander "Sandy" Nininger, a graduate of West Point class of 1941, and is a landmark central to the identity and history of our community,” explained Florida Panthers owner and governor, Vincent J. Viola, in an article on FloridaPanthers.com.
As these much-anticipated projects debut over the next year, they’ll help ensure Broward remains on top as one of the state—and country’s—premier sporting locales.