City Council To Vote Thursday On Rowdies Stadium Referendum
On Valentine’s Day 42 years ago, the Tampa Bay Rowdies played their first soccer game in St. Petersburg. This Thursday, the City Council will vote on ballot language for a referendum that could allow the team to stay at Al Lang Stadium for 25 years instead of five.
The additional time is necessary because Rowdies owner Bill Edwards proposed $80 million in privately-funded renovations to Al Lang Stadium. The renovations are an effort to improve the team's recent bid to be one of four Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion teams.
Tampa Bay Business Journal reporter Janelle Irwin said that the additional time at the stadium would allow the Rowdies to successfully upgrade the venue.
“[The ordinance] would…create a 25-year lease, which is necessary for the team to undergo $80 million worth of stadium renovations that are part of their process to try to turn the Rowdies into a Major League Soccer team,” she explained.
Improvements include new locker rooms, concession areas and about 10,000 more seats, none of which will change the footprint of the existing stadium.
However, the renovations are contingent upon the Rowdies earning the MLS franchise.
The lease expansion ordinance will still need a second vote and a public hearing before voters can weigh in.
Joe Zeoli is the managing director for St. Pete. He says that the city has a unique opportunity to improve both the downtown and the sports scene.
“St. Petersburg does have a long history with the Rowdies,” he said. “We’re very excited about the chance to preserve this unique team for St. Petersburg.”