The Tampa Bay Rowdies recently threw their hat into the ring for potential MLS expansion, and now details are emerging about their plan to upgrade Al Lang Stadium to meet the league’s standards.
The Rowdies, who are moving from the NASL to USL ahead of the 2017 season, have played at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg since 2011. The venue currently seats approximately 7,500, but Rowdies ownership plan on expanding the stadium to hold 18,000 if the club moves to MLS.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards plans to spend up to $80 million to upgrade the waterfront facility. The renovations would remain within Al Lang Stadium’s existing footprint, which would create fewer parking issues and eliminate any environmental concerns about potential dredging in Tampa Bay to expand the site.
The St. Petersburg City Council met on Thursday to discuss the plan, which would be entirely privately financed by Edwards and would need to be approved in a referendum. The Times reported that the plan would move forward only if the Rowdies are selected for MLS expansion.
The City Council will vote on the plan on May 2. If the referendum is approved, the city will be authorized to negotiate a 20-year lease for Al Lang Stadium with Edwards. The City Council would then have to approve a final agreement.
If the Rowdies MLS bid doesn’t go through, the plan will not move forward.
Tampa/St. Petersburg was acknowledged by the league last month as one of 10 markets currently vying for four expansion spots. The league will select two new expansion clubs during the second or third quarter of 2017, with those teams set to begin MLS play by 2020. Two more teams, taking the league to 28 total clubs, will be announced at a later date. Interested owners must submit expansion applications to the league by Jan. 31.