Tampa Bay Rowdies take step forward in proposed MLS stadium plan

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. A total of 12 ownership groups in 12 different cities have formally submitted expansion bids as MLS gets set to add four more expansion teams in the coming years for a total of 28 clubs.


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 US$80m 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 (see article below) to MLS on January 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.


Expansion Tracker: 12 ownership groups submit MLS expansion applications


A total of 12 ownership groups in 12 different cities have formally submitted expansion bids as MLS gets set to add four more expansion teams in the coming years for a total of 28 clubs. Below are details of all 12 bids in chronological order of submission announcement:


Charlotte sports entrepreneur Marcus Smith, President and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, officially submitted a bid for the Queen City to be considered for an MLS expansion team.


Charlotte bid – stadium rendering (Credit: MANICA Architecture)



Mayor Megan Barry joined members of the Nashville MLS Organizing Committee – John Ingram (chairman of Ingram Industries), Bill Hagerty (ex-commissioner of Economic Development for Tennessee) and Will Alexander – in submitting the city’s expansion bid at league headquarters in New York City.


Barry announced her support for locating the prospective team’s stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds, a move also supported by the ownership group.




Indy Eleven founder and owner Ersal Ozdemir, also the founder and CEO of Keystone Realty Group, delivered the club’s official application book to MLS earlier on Tuesday.


The club has commitments from prospective owners who live and work in Central Indiana, including: Mickey Maurer (Chairman, National Bank of Indianapolis and IBJ Corp.), Jeff Laborsky (President and CEO of Heritage), Mark Elwood (CEO of Elwood Staffing) and Andy Mohr (founder and owner of Mohr Auto Group).


Indy Eleven’s bid features a proposal for a 20,000-seat downtown stadium at a location with convenient access for motorists and pedestrians. The new stadium will be within walking distance of the shopping, dining and entertainment districts of downtown Indianapolis.


Indianapolis bid – stadium rendering



Tom Gores, owner of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and Chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity, along with Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, LLC, submitted Detroit’s expansion application bid to MLS headquarters Tuesday afternoon.


The bid’s stadium plan calls for a 23,000-seat facility in the heart of Detroit’s sports and entertainment district.


Detroit bid – stadium rendering



USL club Phoenix Rising FC officially submitted its expansion application bid on Tuesday.


The bid features letters of support from more than 45 political and business leaders from the Phoenix area and a plan to privately fund the building of a new, climate-controlled, soccer-specific stadium on a 45-acre site that is under contract. The soccer complex will include the club’s academy, as well as light-rail access for fans throughout the Valley.


The ownership team is headed by the club’s governor, Berke Bakay, and includes a group of investors who purchased Arizona United Soccer Club in August 2016: Brett Johnson (CEO, Benevolent Capital), Mark Detmer (Managing Director, JLL), Tim Riester (CEO of RIESTER) and David Rappaport (partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP).


Phoenix Rising is coached by long-time MLS manager Frank Yallop.


Phoenix – stadium rendering


St. Louis

Prospective ownership group SC STL, headed by lead owner and chairman Paul Edgerley (part owner of the Boston Celtics), announced they have filed an expansion application and supporting documents with the league office. Edgerley is joined on SC STL’s executive committee by CEO of World Wide Technology Jim Kavanaugh, Managing Director of Tortoise Capital Terry Matlack and former Anheuser-Busch President Dave Peacock.


The group is proposing a new 20,000-seat downtown stadium adjacent to and west of St. Louis Union Station.





A group led by North Carolina FC owner Steve Malik has confirmed an expansion bid was submitted for the Raleigh/Durham area.


In the statement announcing the official expansion application, North Carolina FC noted that it will reveal more information about its stadium plans in the coming weeks.


North Carolina FC video


San Antonio

Spurs Sports & Entertainment, owners of USL side San Antonio FCannounced their formal application for expansion.


Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings Chairman and CEO, Kevin Nagle, officially submitted their expansion bid on Tuesday, while also announcing the addition of Meg Whitman, President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprises, and Dr. Griff Harsh, a professor of neurosurgery and otolaryngology at Stanford University Medical Center, to the prospective ownership group. Several local investors in the Sacramento Kings, as well as Jed York of the San Francisco 49ers also form part of the group.


The club has a “shovel-ready” downtown stadium plan for a 20,000-seat MLS stadium that has already cleared all regulatory approvals, according to a statement by the team.


Sacramento – stadium rendering



FC Cincinnati owner, CEO and chairman Carl H. Lindner III delivered the expansion application to league headquarters on Tuesday. Lindner is also the co-CEO of American Financial Group.


Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg

The Tampa Bay Rowdies delivered their expansion application to MLS headquarters in New York City on Monday afternoon. Their interactive expansion application, featuring more than 200 letters of support from politicians and local celebrities among others, included a modern rendition of “A Kick in the Grass.”


Also part of the application were renderings of the privately funded renovation and expansion plans to Al Lang Stadium as well as details of the proposed ownership group led by Rowdies Chairman & CEO Bill Edwards, who headed the delegation that traveled to Manhattan on Monday morning.



Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg bid – stadium rendering


San Diego

Mike Stone, the leader of a prospective MLS ownership group, hand-delivered San Diego’s expansion application bid to MLS Commissioner Don Garber in an event held on Monday afternoon on the deck of the USS Midway in San Diego. The city’s mayor, Kevin Faulconer, and MLS legend Landon Donovan also attended the event.


The bid’s stadium plan calls for a privately-financed 30,000-seat facility on the Mission Valley site where Qualcomm Stadium sits.


The local ownership group includes: former Qualcomm President Steve Altman, technology entrepreneurs Massih and Masood Tayeb (co-founders of Bridgewest Group), San Diego Padres Managing Partner and local investor Peter Seidler and sports media executive Juan Carlos Rodriguez.



San Diego bid – stadium rendering. Courtesy: Gensler Sports



Source: MLSsoccer.com




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