Plans for Al Lang Stadium upgrades for the Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) are on hold, as city officials don’t want to commit tourism dollars for stadium improvements until the future of a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark is settled.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Rowdies owner Bill Edwards had proposed a long-term lease and a financial commitment to upgrades. The longer lease would have required voter approval via referendum; the money for upgrades would have come from Pinellas County’s tourism taxes. The current Al Lang Stadium lease ends at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
But the proposal for a longer lease and stadium upgrades is on hold for now. From the Tampa Bay Times:
Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard said this week that Kriseman told him the city wouldn’t seek hotel bed tax money for Al Lang or the Rowdies. That means the referendum idea appears dead.
Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby declined to comment further than a brief statement.
“Based on the mayor’s conversations with Mr. Edwards, there is no urgency for a referendum related to a lease on Al Lang Stadium,” Kirby said.
There appears to be a number of factor at play here. First, until there’s a final decision on a new Rays ballpark, Pinellas County officials aren’t likely to divert any tourism taxes to Al Lang until it’s known whether they will be used on a new Rays facility. Second, Edwards’ ultimate plan to seek an MLS team was nipped in the bud when it was revealed that Tampa Bay was part of Orlando’s territory — and it’s highly unlikely Orlando MLS owners would approval another MLS team down I-4.
But that doesn’t mean Al Lang can’t be improved. It’s one of the prettiest venues in all of pro soccer, and there’s still the sense that this is a ballpark pressed into service as a soccer stadium.
Image courtesy Tampa Bay Rowdies.