ST. PETERSBURG – How would you like to have an M.L.S. team in our backyard? The Tampa Bay Rowdies want to take their team up a notch and are launching a big campaign to become the next major men’s league soccer team in Florida.
“We are committed to expanding the world’s game right here in downtown St. Petersburg, and we feel strongly that joining Major League Soccer is the next logical step,” said Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards.
The Rowdies have met with MLS executives, including Commissioner Don Garber, and Edwards says, “It is clear that they are looking at cities that have demonstrated their support for soccer via season ticket memberships, single game ticket sales and sponsorships.”
The deal could also mean $80 million in improvements to Al Lang Stadium to give fans “a modern soccer experience” while maintaining the character of the downtown St. Pete waterfront. Instead of hosting a little over 7,200 fans, 18,000 fans will be able to pack into the stadium. It will also have views of the water.
The concept is in line with the Waterfront Master Plan developed by the community and approved by the city, the teams says. Edwards insists the upgrades will be privately funded.
Edwards added, “We need the people of St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon, Sarasota, Bradenton and our entire region to get behind this effort. We need to show MLS leadership that we are the next great MLS city.”
The Rowdies have the 3rd best attendance in the North American Soccer League.
The M.L.S. board of directors meets on December 15, that's why the Rowdies are pushing so hard now to get the community on board.
Yes, one thing they have to show is the community supports this move.
So they've started a hashtag on social media: #MLS2StPete
The biggest question you’re raising on Facebook: With Orlando City Soccer Club just 111 miles away down I-4, is there enough demand for two M-L-S teams?
Kunyit thinks so... writing on Facebook, "Let’s do it Orlando City versus Tampa Bay Rowdies Rivalry." Sebastian isn't quite as stoked, "Yeah," he says "Because St Pete is doing wonders for the Rays attendance. How bout we put these Tampa Bay teams actually in, ya know, Tampa."
And Lorenzo says, "I think it's too close to the Orlando market."
For more information on the campaign and to view the renderings of the proposed renovations to Al Lang Stadium, visit MLS2StPete.com.