Rick Baker Could Abstain From Al Lang Stadium Lease Negotiations

Al Lang Stadium renovation rendering

As a mayoral candidate, Edwards Group president Rick Baker says that he will not negotiate a lease for a renovated Al Lang Stadium if an MLS expansion team is awarded during the campaign cycle. 

In May, the Tampa Bay Rowdies received voter approval to move forward with lease negotiations for a proposed expansion of St. Petersburg’s Al Lang Stadium. Pitched by Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, the plan calls for the team’s home to be expanded to MLS standards as part of an $80 million project, provided that the MLS bid expansion proves to be successful.

Baker, who previously served as St. Petersburg’s mayor from 2001-2010, is back in the mix as a candidate for the upcoming mayoral election. While he has been involved in the Al Lang Stadium expansion effort, Baker says he will not negotiate a lease for the Rowdies if MLS announces its decision during the campaign. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

MLS officials have said they will announce two expansion teams sometime this year. If the league announces its decision before mayoral election is decided, Baker says, he won’t take part in negotiating the lease, which will allow the team to expand the historic stadium to 18,000 seats.

“I would not negotiate the lease. We’ve already talked about it internally. Wes Bailey (the Rowdies general counsel) would negotiate the lease. And, of course, Bill would be there,” Baker said.

The primary for the St. Petersburg mayoral election is scheduled for August 29, and another election could take place on November 7 if a candidate fails to capture at least 50% of the vote in August. Other cities could be considering their MLS expansion cases in November, including San Diego, which could have a referendum regarding the proposed SoccerCity project.

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