The Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) will finally see a new and improved turf at Al Lang Field, but the future of the historic facility and the team remains to be seen.
Al Lang Field was built in 1977 on the site of a previous ballpark, and the site has been used for spring training, minor-league baseball and other baseball since 1923. After the Tampa Bay Rays moved spring-training operations south to Port Charlotte, the stadium has been used for various baseball games (including a March exhibition series) and Rowdies soccer.
The stadium’s condition has been in question ever since the Rowdies moved in: at the end of the Rays’ tenure the ballpark was not especially well-maintained, as it was slated more than once for demolition. It’s now being overseen by St. Petersburg Baseball Commission, which, as you’d guess, is focused more on baseball than professional soccer. Plus, it’s a relic of the construction era: lots of concrete, with concessions tucked under the grandstand. As a ballpark, it works, and the site is lovely, with a close proximity to the bay.
As noted, the city will spend $250,000 to resod the field at Al Lang Field, but the future of the facility is in doubt. St. Petersburg is working on a new master plan for the waterfront, and it could be determined that soccer, not baseball is the best use for the site. The baseball commission has a contract to manage Al Lang Field until September 2016, which would fit into a timeline converting the site to a soccer facility. St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards, who owns the Rowdies, wants more of a say in what happens to Al Lang Stadium; his firm already manages venues on behalf of the city.