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St. Petersburg Residents To Decide If Rowdies' Lease, Stadium Can Expand

from Wikimedia Commons
Al Lang Stadium, 2015

The St. Petersburg City Council passed a referendum on Thursday that will allow voters to decide whether to allow the Tampa Bay Rowdies to extend their lease at Al Lang Field to 25 years.

The vote will take place in a May 2 special election.

The Rowdies plan to spend $80 million to improve Al Lang Stadium, if voters approve the lease and if Major League Soccer names them an expansion team. Rowdies owner Bill Edwards said he will pay for the renovations.

Nancy Bataille is a longtime Rowdies fan and St. Petersburg resident. She told the City Council at a public hearing that soccer is good for the city.

"I just feel that by extending the lease so that we can acquire the MLS franchise...this would...help promote our city as the number one destination that we already know that it is,” she said.

Bob Lieb's downtown St. Petersburg condominium overlooks Al Lang Stadium. While he is not opposed to the soccer stadium expansion, he worries that additional events might affect him.

"I'm concerned about concerts and events that could be extremely noisy and that could continue into the night," he said.

City Council member Amy Foster supports the lease extension from the current five years. She said she understands residents who brought up concerns about noise and traffic impacts at the public hearing.

“We are constantly working as a body to strike a balance between the vibrancy of downtown and the livability,” she said. “You know, we've heard those concerns and you'll certainly have another opportunity to respond once there's a use agreement on the table."

The Rowdies will pay about $200,000 to cover the costs of the special election.

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