This blog has gone into depth several times since March about the behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts by Edwards and former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker to land a new soccer-only stadium on the St. Pete waterfront. And a new stadium is surely a requirement for MLS acceptance.
But it won't be easy to convince local residents, who were so concerned about legacy and tradition downtown that they spiked a well-thought-out proposal to replace the city's failing pier.
Times reporter Charlie Frago writes Edwards and Baker are eyeing the MLS' planned expansion to 24 teams by 2020, "all but one of (which seems) spoken for." All to "have a chance" at MLS acceptance:
To have a chance, the Rowdies need more fans. The team averages 5,000 fans a game.Of course, Al Lang upgrades (or replacement) would be expensive, and Edwards, although one of the area's most generous donors at times, hasn't said a peep about where the money would come from.
"If I can get 8,000 people coming to 15 games a year, it'd be a no-brainer to take it up a level to the MLS," Edwards said.
Another challenge is the proximity of another MLS franchise a little more than an hour away.
Would the 19-team league allow two franchises in Central Florida? MLS didn't return calls for comment.
However, he did successfully lobby state senators (one of which, he donated $50k to afterward) and governor (to whom he donated $1 million) to add the Rowdies to the list of major-league sports franchises now eligible for state stadium subsidies, originally designed to drive tourism.
The humor in that is captured in the Times story:
Getting enough out-of-towners to justify bed tax dollars for an Al Lang soccer makeover would be a stretch, said Kevin King, chief of staff for Mayor Rick Kriseman. The Tourist Development Council, which makes recommendations on how to distribute bed tax money, focuses on attracting overnight hotel guests, he said.Like that will stop Edwards and Baker from getting their way in St. Pete...