At Thursday’s city council meting, the Tampa Bay Rowdies requested a one-year renewal to manage, maintain and operate Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.
The current agreement between St. Pete and the Rowdies requires the team to notify city administration if they wish to negotiate an agreement with a term of less than three years. Joe Zeoli, Managing Director of Development for St. Petersburg, relayed to city council that after reviewing their options the Rowdies have requested just a one year extension when the current agreement expires on Nov. 30.
Zeoli said that while he believes that both sides would like a long term deal, the team would like to consider all possibilities and see what becomes of the new stadium discussions. These discussions are intertwined with the ongoing Tropicana Field redevelopment proposals, and the city understands and agrees with the request.
“It’s unclear at this point how one might affect the other,” said Zeoli. “I do know they love the waterfront and Al Lang Stadium though.”
While the Rowdies may only be requesting a one-year extension at this point, the amendment to the current agreement also includes modifications to allow them to request an extension for longer than the current three years moving forward.
If the team has any other modifications or additional provisions for the city to consider, it has until May 1, 2022, to present those to city administration. As with this amendment, it would then require a city council vote to be approved.
Al Lang Stadium sits on the downtown St. Petersburg bayrfront and has a total capacity of 7,227. Originally built in 1947, it was named after the former mayor who was instrumental in bringing minor league and spring training baseball to the city. However, it would host its last spring training game in 2008 and would incrementally be renovated to better host soccer after the Rowdies began to call the stadium home in 2011.
In April of 2015, fans were able to see the fully-renovated, soccer-only stadium for the first time. Former owner Bill Edwards openly discussed expanding stadium capacity to 18,000 for a potential move to Major League Soccer, although he sold the team to the Tampa Bay Rays organization in 2018 and they continue to compete in the United Soccer League.
It remains to be seen if the one-year extension could also be part of a plan for desiring more renovations to be done to Al Lang Stadium.
The 2019 season – the first under Rays ownership – began with a bang as the Rowdies kicked it off with a 13 game winning streak. The team would make the playoffs for the first time in two years before losing in the first round.
The 2020 season would bring greater success, as the Rowdies would finish a pandemic-shortened season as Group H winners. They would then win their next three playoff games to win the Eastern Conference finals and spot in the championship match. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 the 2020 USL Championship Final was subsequently cancelled.
The Rowdies have continued their winning ways in 2021, currently sitting atop the Atlantic Division standings. The team will face Hartford Athletic at Al Lang Stadium on Tuesday, July 13.