During an event on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rowdies announced a campaign to join the MLS and released renderings of a proposed AL Lang Stadium renovation.
A major part of the campaign is the Al Lang Stadium renovation, which the Rowdies say will be privately financed. The former baseball spring training facility in St. Petersburg has been home to the team since 2011, and will require an extensive overhaul to acquire an MLS expansion franchise. The Rowdies recently announced a move from the NASL to the USL for the 2017 season, and are already setting their sights on a higher league.
“We are committed to expanding the world’s game right here in downtown St. Petersburg, and we feel strongly that joining Major League Soccer is the next logical step,” said Rowdies Chairman & CEO Bill Edwards. “We have met with MLS executives, including Commissioner Don Garber, and it is clear that they are looking at cities that have demonstrated their support for soccer via season ticket memberships, single game ticket sales and sponsorships.”
The Rowdies were the first professional sports franchise in Tampa Bay and over the last 41 years the team has undergone multiple changes, but none as dramatic as what has taken place over the last few years.
“Major League Soccer is watched all over the world,” commented Edwards. “This move will bring national and international exposure to St. Petersburg, while also boosting tourism in the area. Bringing Major League Soccer to St. Petersburg will be a great economic driver for the entire region, and will serve as another platform to unify fans on both sides of the bay.”
Leading stadium planners and architects ICON Venue Group and Populous have studied the region, the city and the Al Lang Stadium site and have developed a concept that provides a world-class soccer experience, while maintaining the scale and character of the downtown waterfront.The concept is consistent with, and contemplated by, the Waterfront Master Plan developed by the community and approved by the city.
Edwards added, “We need the people of St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon, Sarasota, Bradenton and our entire region to get behind this effort. We need to show MLS leadership that we are the next great MLS city!”
Renderings courtesy Tampa Bay Rowdies.