The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ plan to upgrade Al Lang Stadium in the hopes of landing an MLS expansion team took a step forward on Thursday, when the St. Petersburg City Council approved ordinance language for the project.
Approving the ordinance language is the first step in a process that, if successful, would lead to a May 2 referendum that would allow St. Petersburg residents to vote on giving City Council the authority to negotiate a long-term use agreement for Al Lang Stadium.
According to a press release issued by the Rowdies on Thursday, the use agreement would not be able to exceed 25 years and would allow Al Lang Stadium’s primary purpose to be as the home field for a potential MLS team.
In addition to approving the ordinance language, the St. Petersburg City Council also announced on Thursday that they have set a public hearing for Thursday, March 2 to discuss the ordinance before the Council votes on scheduling the May 2 special election. Rowdies owner Bill Edwards would cover the entire cost of the May 2 election if the Council votes to hold it.
The proposed upgrades would cost up to $80 million and would increase capacity of Al Lang Stadium from approximately 7,500 to 18,000. The full cost of the renovations would be financed entirely by Edwards and the upgrades would only happen if Tampa Bay is awarded an MLS expansion team.
The Rowdies, who are moving from NASL to USL this year, submitted their expansion application to MLS on Jan. 30. The club is one of 12 groups in 12 different cities that submitted a bid. The league will announce two new expansion clubs in 2017, with those teams set to begin MLS play by 2020. Two more teams will be added at a later date, taking the league to 28 total clubs.