The proposed Al Lang Stadium renovations are now in the hands of voters, as St. Petersburg has authorized a May 2 referendum.
On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council granted its final approval to the referendum, which will ask voters to consider whether to allow the city to enter into a long-term agreement with the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Rowdies owner Bill Edwards has proposed a privately-financed $80 million renovation to Al Lang Stadium that would expand the facility and make it conducive to MLS standards.
If the referendum results in approval from voters, it will allow the city to move forward with a 25-year lease with the Rowdies. There is a stipulation that the Rowdies must secure an MLS expansion slot to make the agreeement official. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
Any agreement would have to approved by the council and is contingent on the team getting one of the four MLS expansion slots that should be decided within the next few years. The first two slots should be decided this year, said former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker, president of the Edwards Group.
Baker said bringing an MLS team to St. Petersburg would take the city’s economic renaissance to the next level. He said adding an MLS team could be bigger for the city than the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the annual IndyCar Series race that returns next week, or the Tampa Bay Rays, who seek to escape their current St. Petersburg home of Tropicana Field and build a new stadium, possibly in Hillsborough County.
St. Petersburg is one of 12 cites in the mix to obtain an MLS expansion franchise. It is also not the only city to be holding a referendum on the issue, as St. Louis voters will decide in April whether to authorize the use of public funds for a new stadium. The special election in St. Petersburg will paid for by Edwards.
The MLS will add four teams from this round of expansion. The first pair of clubs is expected to join the league by 2020.
RELATED STORIES: Al Lang Stadium Project Moves Closer to Referendum; 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