One local minor league sports team is hoping to be added to Major League Soccer. The first step however was in the hands of local voters.
On Tuesday, St. Petersburg voters approved the Al Lang Stadium referendum by an overwhelming majority with 87 percent of the votes.
The owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Bill Edwards spent nearly 300-thousand dollars of his own money for Tuesday's special referendum vote.
“I am grateful to the citizens of St. Petersburg for passing this important referendum,” said Rowdies Chairman & CEO Bill Edwards. “St. Petersburg is very protective of our incredibly valuable waterfront – as is appropriate. We have put together a stadium plan that enhances our downtown, is of a scale that is respectful to our waterfront and does not burden the taxpayers.”
The use agreement would allow Al Lang Stadium’s primary purpose to be the home field for a potential Major League Soccer team. The $80 million renovation and expansion will be privately funded and is contingent on being awarded an MLS franchise.
“This vote is clear confirmation that St. Petersburg wants and is ready for Major League Soccer,” said Edwards. “I want to specifically thank the City Administration and Council, the Chamber’s Rowdies Council and all of those Rowdies fans throughout our region who support this great effort.”
The Rowdies hosted a Victory Party at Al Lang Stadium on Tuesday night, where hundreds of fans showed up to celebrate another historic moment in Rowdies history.
"In approving this referendum, voters have not only expressed their support for a longer term agreement at Al Lang Stadium, but have sent a strong message that St. Pete and the entire region are excited about the prospect of the Rowdies joining MLS,” said City of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “The Rowdies’ future in the Sunshine City has never been brighter.”
After the results were made public, The Edwards Group President and former City of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker took the stage to celebrate the victory.
“Today is a great day for St. Pete and Rowdies soccer,” said Baker. “The loud and clear message is that our city and region are enthused and ready for Major League Soccer.”
After receiving the positive news, St. Petersburg City Council Chairwoman Darden Rice expressed her satisfaction with the outcome of the election.
“I am thrilled with the outcome of the referendum,” said Rice. “This truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our city. Our message to MLS is simple: we want you in St. Pete!”
Following the final results, MLS issued the following statement on Tuesday night:
"We are pleased that the people of St. Petersburg support the Rowdies proposal to renovate Al Lang Stadium. Bill Edwards personally came to our offices in January to submit his expansion application and share his vision. With the passage of the stadium vote, we look forward to working with the Rowdies as they continue to pursue a Major League Soccer team for Tampa Bay."