A Tampa Bay Rowdies sale to the Tampa Bay Rays is moving forward, as Bill Edwards will sell the USL club to the Major League Baseball organization.
Reports surfaced earlier this week that the Rays were purchasing the USL’s Rowdies from Edwards, a businessman who has owned the club since 2013. That transaction is moving forward, as was announced by the two sides at a press conference this week.
The agreement is technically not final at this point, as the St. Petersburg City Council still has to approve a reauthorization of the club’s Al Lang Stadium lease. Currently the Rowdies are playing at Al Lang Stadium on a lease that runs through November 30, 2020, but Edwards indicated that the sale agreement includes a clause that the club remains at the facility for at least the next five years. More from the Tampa Bay Times:
“I’ve heard a lot of conspiracies,” Edwards said. “There’s nothing going on. Our agreement is to keep the Rowdies in town for at least five years.”
Rays team president Matt Silverman said the five-year commitment was not an issue and reiterated the Rowdies deal is “unrelated” to plans to build a new baseball stadium in Ybor City they hope to open in 2023.
“It was not a contentious point at all,” he told the Tampa Bay Times after the event. “In fact, we were in complete agreement that for the foreseeable future the Rowdies should be playing at Al Lang, and we hope that their run at Al Lang continues beyond that.”
With the lease expiring in two years, the Rays will have to work out a new deal with the city to fulfill the five-year promise.
Al Lang Stadium has an interesting history, as it is a former MLB spring training venue used by the Rays/Devil Rays from 1998-2008. Despite some speculation that had surfaced, the Rays’ purchase of the Rowdies and subsequent gain of an Al Lang Stadium lease is not expected to affect any regular-season or spring training facility plans for the team. The Rays are pursuing a new ballpark in Tampa’s Ybor City, and their spring training lease at Port Charlotte’s Charlotte Sports Park runs for another decade. Sister site Ballpark Digest took a closer look at this angle earlier this week.
Image courtesy Tampa Bay Rowdies.
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