Rowdies Get Even Rowdier as Bill Edwards Becomes Principal Owner, Vows Team and Stadium Investment
(ST. PETERSBURG, FL – December 12, 2013) – Today St. Petersburg businessman and philanthropist Bill Edwards announced he has purchased controlling interest in the North American Soccer League’s Rowdies, becoming Principal Owner and team representative on the NASL Board of Governors.
In addition to the ownership change, Mr. Edwards also announced the re-signing of Coach Ricky Hill and immediate plans to add premium midfield seating for the 2014 season. More than 1,100 seats will be erected along the west sideline at Al Lang Stadium, the Rowdies’ home venue, including approximately 212 premium Midfielder’s Club seats. Midfielder’s Club seats will be just feet from the touchline, and will surround players’ benches integrated into the stands. Additionally, Club members will have access to a pitch-side member’s lounge. New midfield seating, including the limited number of Midfielder’s Club seats are now available through www.rowdiessoccer.com or by calling 813-287-1539.
“The Rowdies are a fantastic part of downtown St. Petersburg,” said Edwards. “It is my goal to build the best team in American soccer and create the best fan experience in American soccer. I am confident we can do both.”
“When we purchased rights to the team in 2008, we knew we wanted to bring the Rowdies brand back in a major way,” said team Director and Owner David Laxer. “We have achieved great success in a short period of time. With the leadership of Bill Edwards, we will be able to move the team to the next level – quickly.”
Perry Van Der Beck, Rowdies Executive Vice President, Technical Director and Director of Player Development added “Having met with Mr. Edwards, I am pleased that he shares the Rowdies dedication of building onto this club’s rich history of winning championships and actively participating in the local community. We’ve accomplished a lot in the past four seasons and with Mr. Edwards at the helm, we will continue to develop quality players, aim for another NASL Championship and provide an entertaining game experience for the fans.”
“We are delighted to welcome Bill Edwards to the NASL family,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “We are excited by Bill’s vision for the future of the great Rowdies brand and for the club’s supporters, the league and soccer as a thriving sport in Florida. It is very clear from discussions we have had with Bill Edwards that he cares passionately for the region he calls home and that his ownership will establish the Rowdies as one of North America’s premier soccer clubs.”
Bill Edwards is a businessman, financier, real estate developer, recording company executive, entertainment promoter, philanthropist and now professional sports team owner. In 2013 he was inducted into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame for his business expertise and forward-thinking leadership. Mr. Edwards’ philanthropy is widespread, with a focus on children and veterans. He has donated several million dollars to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, has organized an annual Holiday Donation Drive for more than ten years, providing food and gifts to hundreds of disadvantaged families from throughout the area, and supports the Class Acts Arts Education series for youth. Edwards is the largest single donor to the Veterans Airlift Command, which transports injured veterans for medical and personal reasons. He has sponsored numerous community events over the years including the annual Taste of Pinellas and First Night St. Petersburg. In 2012, Mr. Edwards was honored with the “Gandhi, King, Ikeda Community Bridge Builder Award” for his philanthropic work with children and veterans. Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The Rowdies were the first professional sports franchise in the area and remain one of the most recognizable and well-loved brands in soccer. Originally established in 1975, the team won the NASL Soccer Bowl championship in its inaugural year and created a unique, entertaining and memorable franchise with the Fannies, Wowdies and unforgettable Kick in the Grass theme song. In 2008, a group of investors announced the purchase of rights to a professional soccer franchise and the newly established team began play in 2010. In 2012, the Rowdies won the NASL Soccer Bowl Championship after a thrilling shoot-out victory in front of a sold out crowd at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg. NASL clubs play a split season format from April through June and July through November with the winners of each season earning the right to compete for the NASL Soccer Bowl Championship.
Source: Tampa Bay Rowdies Media