The Tampa Bay Rowdies (USL Championship) requested an extension of the Al Lang Stadium lease–but only for one season, as so much is up in the air with parent Tampa Bay Rays.
As we’ve chronicled in our Ballpark Digest site, the Rays have been working on various plan to keep the team at a new Tampa Bay ballpark. The most recent plan is a revival of a new Ybor City facility, with the team potentially splitting time between Tampa and Montreal. If those talks fail…well, the Rays may not see much of a future in St. Petersburg.
But if those talk succeed, there’s potentially an intriguing side development. At one point in the new-ballpark discussions, Rays leadership held out the possibility of returning spring training to St. Petersburg should the team either stay in St. Pete or move to Tampa. That could mean something different when it comes to Al Lang Stadium and potentially a return to baseball. Everything is up in the air. (We’re also going to throw out the possibility of a new USL-sized stadium as any part of Tropicana Field redevelopment. Hey, think big.)
So while imaginations are admittedly running wild, there are some pretty good reasons why the Rays and Rowdies want to commit only to a one-year Al Lang Stadium lease extension, instead of the standard three-year period. From St. Pete Catalyst:
Zeoli said that while he believes that both sides would like a long term deal, the team would like to consider all possibilities and see what becomes of the new stadium discussions. These discussions are intertwined with the ongoing Tropicana Field redevelopment proposals, and the city understands and agrees with the request.
“It’s unclear at this point how one might affect the other,” said Zeoli. “I do know they love the waterfront and Al Lang Stadium though.”
While the Rowdies may only be requesting a one-year extension at this point, the amendment to the current agreement also includes modifications to allow them to request an extension for longer than the current three years moving forward.
(One thing to correct in the Catalyst coverage: The current Al Lang Stadium dates back to 1976. The original classic deco Al Lang Field opened in 1947 and was torn down to make way for the current facility.)