Rowdies get the stadium lease win. Next comes MLS expansion bid

The vote paves the way for hopefully a MLS franchise invitation

Bill Edwards, the owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies was given the green light by the voters of St. Petersburg to forward on the expansion of Al Lang Field. Voters by an 87% to 13% margin has approved a referendum that allows St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, to work out a 25-year lease with the Rowdies on Al Lang Stadium and in exchange Edwards will invest $80 million to expand the facility to seat 18,000.

The deal is predicated on Edwards getting an expansion invitation to join Major League Soccer. The league will be adding at least four teams before the start of the 2020 season. The goal is to make an expanded Al Lang Stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront a real showcase facility that both the city and the team can be proud of for years to come.

The Rowdies have put forth a strong bid that will include an estimated $150 million buy in. They are considered a strong contender in a field of 11 cities from coast to coast.

Sacramento, San Antonio, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Louisville and Charlotte are among the cities that are in the hunt for a new MLS franchise.

The league looks for strong stable ownership, that has outstanding relationships with the local business community as well as local government. The key to the success of the league has been picking the franchises in markets that have the combination a passion for soccer as well as good media markets.

Another key point in Edwards and the Rowdies bid to join the MLS is that they have control of the stadium. Their personal investment in the expansion of Al Lang by not using any public funds is also a big plus for the Tampa Bay effort.