Rowdies chances to land a spot in the MLS is better today

The Rowdies got a break as St. Louis seems like they are out of the running.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies chances of becoming a Major League Soccer member got much better today. St. Louis, one of their top challengers in now off the board after voters voted not to fund their stadium.

The MLS wants to add four franchises by the year 2020 and it was thought that St. Louis and Tampa Bay were in a real battle to be one of those teams. The vote was for $60 million going to a soccer only stadium, but the St. Louis voters did not support the effort in a close vote  with 53 percent against vs. 47 percent for the funding of the new venue.

The MLS issued a statement after the vote was decided.

“For many years we have believed that St. Louis would be a tremendous market for a Major League Soccer team, but the lack of a positive stadium vote is clearly a significant setback for the city’s expansion opportunity and a loss for the community,” MLS officials said in a news release.

“We deeply appreciate the efforts of Paul Edgerley, Jim Kavanaugh and their partners to bring Major League Soccer to St. Louis. They were focused on creating a plan that benefited the community at no cost to St. Louis City residents while bringing the fastest growing professional League in North America to the region.”

The Rowdies have a great owner in Bill Edwards, who is willing to spend as much as $80 million of his own money to renovate Al Lang to a state of the art 18,000 seat stadium. The city of St. Petersburg and the Rowdies have a very good relationship that very few cities who want a franchise have.

Photo: AP Photo/Mike Carlson

That relationship between the city and the team gives the Rowdies a big advantage over the 11 other area’s that want a franchise. With an owner who can bank roll the stadium renovation and pay the $120 to $150 million expansion fee that is a big plus for the Rowdies.

Another challenger could fall and that would be San Diego who has been a good soccer town in the past. But come November they will have to get voters to fund a multi-purpose stadium that would be in the $1 billion range.

San Deigo has on a number of occasions voted down a new stadium for the Chargers. The fans did not support a new stadium referendum last year, even though they knew the “Bolts,” would be moving about 90 miles north up Interstate 5 to Los Angeles where they will share a new stadium with the Rams.

So, while San Diego has a good soccer history, a new venue near the site of the old Qualcomm Stadium is far from a lock.

All of this is good news for the Rowdies but until the franchise is announced we just remain hopeful. Meanwhile, the Rowdies are 2-0 and leading the United Soccer League Eastern Division and Saturday night the team will host Ottawa 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium.

Quotes used in the story came from the MLS PR.

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Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.