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Tampa Bay Rowdies stadium referendum passes, boosting MLS expansion bid

The Tampa Bay Rowdies moved one step closer to their goal of bringing Major League Soccer back to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area after the passing of a public referendum to allow the St. Petersburg city council to negotiate a long-term lease with the Rowdies. The referendum, which will all negotiation for extending the lease to Al Lang Stadium for up to 25 years, passed with 87 percent of the vote.

The long-term lease is needed so Rowdies owner Bill Edwards and his partners can launch an $80 million renovation plan for the stadium. The plan, which is contingent on Tampa Bay being chosen as one of the next MLS expansion markets, will include expanding the stadium to 18,000 seats while making other improvements to the waterfront area around the stadium. The expansion plan is the centerpiece of Tampa’s bid to re-join MLS. Unlike the initial stadium proposal from Saint Louis, Tampa’s is completely privately funded which is one of the keys behind it passing by such a large measure.

“I am grateful to the citizens of St. Petersburg for passing this important referendum,” said Edwards. “St. Petersburg is very protective of our incredibly valuable waterfront – as is appropriate.  We have put together a stadium plan that enhances our downtown, is of a scale that is respectful to our waterfront and does not burden the taxpayers.”

MLS also lent their congratulations to the #MLS2StPete movement, releasing a statement shortly after the vote passed.

“We are pleased that the people of St. Petersburg support the Rowdies proposal to renovate Al Lang Stadium.” the league said. “Bill Edwards personally came to our offices in January to submit his expansion application and share his vision. With the passage of the stadium vote, we look forward to working with the Rowdies as they continue to pursue a Major League Soccer team for Tampa Bay.”

The Rowdies-led Tampa Bay MLS expansion group is one of 12 trying to secure one of the four expansion slots MLS is looking to fill in the coming years, and Tuesday’s referendum approval will certainly boost Tampa Bay’s chances of having an MLS team for the first time since the Tampa Bay Mutiny closed up show after the 2002 season.

Here is a look at the renderings of the proposed stadium project:


  1. I live and work downtown. Only get to a game or so a season because I work most Saturday nights. I am very optimistic this will be good for the area.

    They have been drawing well for a few years. Even though I wish the stadium was more ambitious, the current plan seems very feasible.

    The stadium was originally a spring training/ A ball baseball stadium, mostly for the Cardinals for about 60 years. It sits on an awesome spot that gets nice breezes even on summer nights. Essentially they would be adding a second baseball stadium twice the size on the other side of the field.

    My wish is they cover the original side with a matching roof, and put something on that small strip between the road and the water (luxury boxes?).

    As for the city, I believe that our leaders want the MLS here to help offset the Rays leaving (hopefully in the area). As someone who works here I feel we can pull 15 to 20 thousand people 20 something times a year (usually weekends) to a soccer game a lot easier than 30 thousand 81 times to watch baseball.

  2. Rowdies fan here, I go to 2-3 home games per season due to the distance from my house to the stadium. The “Rowdies should play in Tampa, not St. Pete” argument has been beaten to death so no point going there.

    The Rowdies are currently averaging about 5,000 per home game in ULS, which is not bad.

    18,000 capacity stadium is just about right and the venue should be full or close to full during home games in the MLS.

    The improvements and design looks spectacular and the location of the stadium is really that pretty-it’s in downtown St. Pete and on the water. And downtown St. Pete is full of bars, music venues, young people, you can’t go wrong.

    Compared to the location of some other MLS stadiums in the middle of nowhere suburbia (Dallas, Colorado, Chicago), the downtown St. Pete stadium location is just fantastic!


  3. Rowdies season ticket holder here…
    I like the look of the stadium upgrades.
    Preserving the downtown waterfront has to be a major piece of any project, and this does the best job, definitely better than the proposed Rays MLB project.
    Also, the design allows for the breeze to come in off of the water which is welcome on those warm July/August evenings.
    Also, the space around the stadium is currently used for other events and the club has stated that those will not be affected, which was a concern of some opponents of the referendum.

    • Same as SJ and only a few seats short of Kansas City, Colorado, and Philly. Keep it small an mostly full and people will feel they are part of something special build it with 30,000 seats and have 60% full and people start to wonder what other people know that they don’t.

      • I hear yeah, but you gotta wonder if 18k isn’t woefully short of seats, then maybe there are better options for the next expansion. TBay comes later, when they are ready.

        Find the next Atlanta, who is drawing more than the Sounders, because MLS will always only be as strong as the weakest link, and they don’t want to have to drop links to get stronger.

  4. Somebody send a “how to” letter to Robert Kraft. They have been blowing off New England fans for years with idle talk of a SSS and NOTHING TO SHOW for it. I for one dont thing they really care

    • I’m not sure where you guys got this idea there’s all these Revs fans in Boston clamoring for a stadium. While MLS fans are busy wishing the Revs had downtown stadium, massholes are busy calling Adam Jones the N-word and pretending it didn’t happen

  5. That’s a nice view of the water but isn’t the point of being in a stadium to watch the game? It would be surprising if that design gets financing.

    • Seriously. I’ve got to say I kinda hate this stadium design. It looks cool but half of the best seats in the stadium are missing…

  6. I don’t think this “boosts” Tampa/St Pete’s chances so much as I think it was taken as a given that this would pass. Failure of this to pass would certainly have killed their bid, but with the referendum’s passing I think they maintain their current spot in the pecking order (wherever one my regard that as being).


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