With a crucial voter referendum in the offing, the Tampa Bay Rowdies are looking to build support for an Al Lang Stadium renovation.
In December, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards proposed a privately-financed $80 million overhaul to Al Lang Stadium, a project that would effectively raise the facility to MLS standards. Edwards made that proposal one of the key pieces of his bid for an MLS expansion franchise, which was submitted at the end of January.
The terms of the deal, contingent on obtaining an MLS franchise, calls for the Rowdies to sign a lease of up to 25 years with the City of St. Petersburg. However, a long-term agreement for the downtown waterfront site must first be authroized by voters before it can be considered by the city.
A special election for the project will be held on May 2. In the weeks leading up to the vote, organization officials–including Edwards Group president and former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker–will be making the Rowdies case. Baker was on hand for a presentation to the Council of Neighborhood Associations’ (CONA) on Wednesday. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
He said that the Rowdies had worked with various community groups, including the Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg — which scuttled a proposed Pier redesign they said was unsuitable for the waterfront — and Preserve Our Waterfront and Wallets, which fought a proposed waterfront baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The team, which has already hired an architect, wants the stadium to fit the scale of the city and adhere to the city’s Downtown Waterfront Master Plan, Baker said.
Will Michaels, a former CONA president, said he was pleased.
“I do want to acknowledge your sensitivity to the downtown waterfront parks,” he said.
If voters allow the proposal to move forward, the Rowdies and St. Petersburg will still have to negotiate the final terms of the agreement, which will require a supermajority for approval by the city council. The Rowdies are one of 12 entities to submit an MLS expansion bid. Plans for the first two organizations from this round of expansion are expected to be announced later this year, with the teams likely debuting for the 2020 season and an additional pair of clubs joining at a later date.
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