Though heavily predicted after the team’s move to the USL, the Tampa Bay Rowdies made official their plans to expand and renovate their stadium and earn an MLS expansion slot.
Rowdies president Bill Edwards officially launched his campaign on Tuesday to bring MLS soccer to St. Petersburg, FL by announcing a massive $80 million privately-funded expansion and renovation of the historic Al Lang Stadium. The proposal included renderings of the renovated stadium which would expand Al Lang’s current 7,227 seat capacity to 18,000.
Edwards stated that he has had preliminary discussions with MLS and commissioner Don Garber on a potential expansion bid and expects those conversations to continue in a January meeting with Garber. MLS confirmed these discussions and expressed interest in the Rowdies bid.
“Major League Soccer has met with Bill Edwards and is aware of the Rowdies’ campaign to bring an MLS expansion team to the Tampa/St. Petersburg market,” MLS executive vice president Dan Courtemanche said in a statement. “There is a rich tradition of professional soccer in the area dating back more than 40 years, and we are impressed with their vision and plans for a world-class soccer stadium on the downtown waterfront in St. Petersburg. We look forward to learning more about their plans in the coming months.”
Edwards also has the mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman, on board.
“St. Pete is a major league city, and the mayor wants to work in partnership with Mr. Edwards to get MLS here,” mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby said. “But what we need people to do is let Mr. Edwards know we want MLS here, and let the commissioner know that we want an MLS team here. So everybody fire up your email.”
“The fans are the most important part,” Edwards added. “We need to get a lot of them on board because we want to expand the stadium.”