A referendum for a proposed Al Lang Stadium overhaul has moved forward, as the St. Petersburg City Council voted in favor of the measure.
Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards continues to pitch a privately-financed, $80 million overhaul to Al Lang Stadium that could allow the team to join the MLS. Reaching a long-term agreement with the city requires a referendum, as voters will decide whether to grant St. Petersburg the authority to commit the waterfront Al Lang Stadium site for the project by securing a lease that could be as long as 25 years.
The referendum, which would be held in a special election on May 2, took a step toward being authorized with the council’s vote on Thursday. A final vote on whether to hold the referendum is expected to take place on March 2. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
But [Edwards Group president Rick] Baker did step forward when a proposed tweak to the ballot language raised the issue if whether the city could make a deadline to post a legal notice in the Tampa Bay Times in time for the final March 2 vote.
The Rowdies would pay the $1,000 fee for the legal notice, Baker said. In fact, Edwards has pledged to pay for up to $80 million in stadium improvements and a $150 million MLS franchise fee without asking for any public money.
That stance was applauded by many of fans and other supporters at Thursday’s meeting, including the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Partnership and the Downtown Neighborhood Association. They also argued that bringing the MLS to the city would stimulate economic development, attract a diverse population and put the city on the map of hip destinations.
Council members agreed. They advanced the measure to a final vote set for March 2.
The Rowdies, who will play the 2017 season in the USL, are one of 12 entities in the mix for MLS expansion. Edwards submitted his bid for entry at the end of last month.
RELATED STORIES: City Council to Decide on Al Lang Stadium Referendum; St. Petersburg Mayor Meets with MLS; St. Petersburg Discusses Al Lang Stadium Proposal; 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