Rowdies get the stadium lease win. Next comes MLS expansion bid

The vote paves the way for hopefully a MLS franchise invitation

Bill Edwards, the owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies was given the green light by the voters of St. Petersburg to forward on the expansion of Al Lang Field. Voters by an 87% to 13% margin has approved a referendum that allows St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, to work out a 25-year lease with the Rowdies on Al Lang Stadium and in exchange Edwards will invest $80 million to expand the facility to seat 18,000.

The deal is predicated on Edwards getting an expansion invitation to join Major League Soccer. The league will be adding at least four teams before the start of the 2020 season. The goal is to make an expanded Al Lang Stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront a real showcase facility that both the city and the team can be proud of for years to come.

The Rowdies have put forth a strong bid that will include an estimated $150 million buy in. They are considered a strong contender in a field of 11 cities from coast to coast.

Sacramento, San Antonio, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Louisville and Charlotte are among the cities that are in the hunt for a new MLS franchise.

The league looks for strong stable ownership, that has outstanding relationships with the local business community as well as local government. The key to the success of the league has been picking the franchises in markets that have the combination a passion for soccer as well as good media markets.

Another key point in Edwards and the Rowdies bid to join the MLS is that they have control of the stadium. Their personal investment in the expansion of Al Lang by not using any public funds is also a big plus for the Tampa Bay effort.

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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.