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Tampa Bay Rowdies: We Can Quadruple Attendance With Major League Soccer

A panel discussion on the impact of the Tampa Bay Rowdies recent referendum was held Thursday by the Tampa Bay Business Journal. That referendum easily passed, and paves the way for the team to bid to be one of four Major League Soccer expansion teams.

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
Members of the panel meet at FIVE Labs in Tampa

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards has proposed $80 million of his own money to expand Al Lang Stadium. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, president of the Edwards Group, says the team could quadruple its attendance. He cited the Orlando City Soccer Club, which in 2015 joined Major League Soccer.

"Orlando is, I think they were averaging 4,000 to 4,500 a game before they got an MLS franchise three years ago," Baker said. "And we probably average about 5,500 a game. They went to 24,000 people a game. And it really just overtook the whole city. And I really think that's what would happen."

Baker says in the meantime, fans can send a message to Major League Soccer by going to games, buying season tickets, or becoming a sponsor. The league is expected to choose two expansion teams this summer.

"The more season tickets you have, the better," he said. "The more people who attend the games, the better. The more sponsors -- small or large -- if you're a small business, you can become a sponsor of the team in some way, that's good. So I would just encourage everybody here to be part of that. To get season tickets, to come to the games, to support what we've got now."

San Diego is up for a similar referendum later this year. Rowdies officials say that team is modeling their campaign after the Rowdies' efforts.


Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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