Rowdies hope for a win at the polls then on to the MLS with some luck
May 2, 2016 is the day that the Tampa Bay Rowdies could one day look back at and say that was when we really got our Major League Soccer bid solidified. Today is the day that voters in St. Petersburg, will head out to the polls to decide if they will allow city officials to negotiate a 25-year lease with the Rowdies.
In exchange for a least deal the Rowdies owner and CEO Bill Edwards, along with his investors, would in turn, spend up to $80 million to expand and upgrade Al Lang Stadium, more than doubling its capacity to 18,000 seats.
The new Al Lang Stadium would serve as the home to the Rowdies, if they can land an expansion invitation from Major League Soccer. The league is expected to add as few as four teams and as many as six before 2020.
Few people doubt that the stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront would instantly become one of the showcase facilities in all of professional sports.
Edwards and the team put up the money for the special election and they feel strongly that the city will be more than happy to work with them in this effort. While, there are some that feel a larger downtown facility might cause too much traffic or perhaps cause too much commotion downtown.
However, the vast number of businesses favor having the Rowdies and their privately funded stadium on the city’s waterfront. They see the opportunity for fans to shop and eat before as well as after games at the new park.
Remember that the expansion of Al Lang Stadium would only happen if the Rowdies get an MLS franchise. Edwards has impressed the league and is willing to spend the estimated $150 million expansion fee to get the Rowdies into the MLS.
Winning a favorable vote today would be a big step forward and show the league that St. Petersburg is fully behind the effort. To his credit Edwards has done a great job of selling the area to the league and they have been impressed thus far with what they have seen.
Edwards will not be around for any celebration later because he is getting a new pacemaker installed. Good idea to get that before he celebrates any win at the polls.
“I’m very sad to miss the election night celebration,” said Edwards in a statement released Monday by the Rowdies organization. “But I expect a full recovery and to be back in shape and fully charged quickly — ready and excited for the continued MLS expansion effort.”
Video from the Rowdies