USL side and MLS expansion hopefuls the Tampa Bay Rowdies are being purchased by Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, according to multiple media reports and a statement from the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team plays.
The Rowdies have not commented on the reports, but have scheduled a press conference for Tuesday morning.
The news appears to add multiple layers of intrigue to the Rowdies’ prospects of future MLS entry, a campaign the club have dubbed #MLS2StPete.
Last year St. Petersburg voters approved a referendum solidifying the Rowdies’ Al Lang Stadium (pictured above) as the future home of a potential MLS expansion team, with current Rowdies owner Bill Edwards having proposed to fund the expansion fee and an $80 million renovation of the historic waterfront stadium into a striking 18,000-capacity soccer venue, a development welcomed by MLS executives.
Edwards “deserves much appreciation for remaking the Tampa Bay Rowdies and investing in Al Lang Stadium and our community,” said St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman in a public statement.
“Similarly, the Tampa Bay Rays' leadership has remade their baseball organization and placed considerable emphasis on community engagement. I am confident that this is a positive development for all parties, the great fans of both teams, and the City of St. Petersburg."
The Rays are also based in St. Petersburg, which sits across Tampa Bay from the city of Tampa proper, and are seeking a new ballpark to replace Tropicana Field, the domed stadium near Al Lang that they’ve called home their entire existence.
The team has proposed a new domed venue in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, but with a price tag approaching $1 billion, it’s unclear who and how the new park would be funded. A decade ago the Rays sought unsuccessfully to advance a proposal for a new baseball stadium on the site of Al Lang, which was originally a baseball facility used primarily as an MLB spring training site in the latter half of the 20th century.
A Rays official told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday the purchase would have no effect on their Ybor City plans.