The St. Petersburg City Council discussed a proposed renovation to Al Lang Stadium on Thursday, expressing some satisfaction and concerns with the plan.
The meeting on Thursday marked one of the first formal discussions in the new year for the plan, which calls for Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards to privately fund a renovation of Al Lang Stadium into a facility that meets MLS standards. As it stands, the roughly $80 million proposal could be a springboard for St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay region, which is one of 10 candidates for the upcoming rounds of MLS expansion.
One of the key points of Thursday’s discussion was a referendum that will need to take place in May. Though the upgrades are privately-financed, St. Petersburg officials still need voter approval before entering into a long-term agreement for Al Lang Stadium’s waterfront location.
More discussions about the referendum will take place in the coming months. During the meeting, council members expressed some approval of the plan, though a few concerns were raised, including the previously-failed proposal to use the site for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
Throughout the upbeat meeting, though, the Rays’ legacy kept popping up. Council member Karl Nurse asked if the team had considered ramping up slowly to its proposed 18,000-seat stadium.
“Any sporting event is more fun when it’s full,” Nurse said. “We built a baseball stadium that maybe we should have built one-third smaller.”
Another old Rays-related wound surfaced: making sure the rest of the country knows what city the Rowdies play in.
“As we move this forward, I’d like to explore somehow working the name of St. Petersburg into the agreement,” said council member Ed Montanari.
Changing the name of the team to the St. Petersburg Rowdies has been floated in recent weeks, but Edwards did not sound too enthusiastic about the idea in a recent interview with the Times. As it relates to the Rays, the Rowdies will have the advantage of offering of a privately-financed facility, which was not the case for the ballpark proposal that gathered momentum before it was shelved in 2008.
Public backlash factored into that plan’s demise, and it was scrapped before it could even be put up for referendum. However, in offering a privately-financed stadium that calls for less disruption to the site than the ballpark, the Rowdies will have to hope that feedback on the plan can maintain a positive tone.
RELATED STORIES: Al Lang Stadium Plan Vying for Support; Al Lang Stadium Agreement Could Have Spring Referendum; Tampa Bay Rowdies Unveil Al Lang Stadium Renovation, MLS Campaign; Al Lang Stadium Renovation Talks Back at the Forefront; St. Pete Holds Off On Al Lang Stadium Upgrades