Sunday, July 27, 2014

If St. Pete Builds It, MLS Will Come (Maybe)

The Tampa Bay Times had a story on page 1B this morning about the worst-kept secret in St. Petersburg: Bill Edwards' long-term bid to take the Rowdies to Major League Soccer {link to Times' site}.

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.

"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.
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. 

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...


  1. Maybe I'm missing something, like Ray Jay is to small of a field, BUT how dumb would it be to even think about building a new stadium for soccer, in St. Pete of all places, when you could spend a fraction of that cost, fix up Ray Jay w/ new video screens like in Jax, plus be closer to an audience that is demographically & culturally more prone to the game of soccer then St. Pete...

    1. So you're saying Jeff Vinik is brilliant and Bill Edwards is dumb.

      But maybe Edwards is the smart one because he could get a taxpayer-funded stadium? Maybe Vinik is smart too for NOT wanting to build a baseball stadium at that cost?

      Either way, good to hear you think taxpayer-funded stadiums aren't always a good idea!

  2. lol, it's not a matter of thinking tax-payer money used for sporting venues is a good idea or not, it's ALL about whether or not the tax-payers investment toward a stadium makes them back $$$ or not. Overall, it would simply make more sense to take a portion of the $$$, build up a better stadium plus w/ it's parking, in an area where soccer more popular.........

    1. I certainly agree that the taxpayer commitment needs to be analyzed. And as I've always said, there is a point where the public subsidy outweighs the gain...which is why nobody is close to figuring out how to finance a Tampa stadium.

  3. Well said, though WE GOTTA BELIEVE that "the smartest front office in sports", along w/ the acc. of what Vinik has done so far w/ the Lightning & Channelside, including the progress of Buckhorn's adm. for Tampa in just 3 years knows "how to finance a Tampa stadium" w/ probably as lil' of "public subsidies" as they can get voted for as possible...
    Let's not forget that if ALL goes as planned, Channelside should become the cash-cow for Hillsborough, and "the taxpayers" will benefit for generations to come if so. Which means it's ONLY fair if it'll be a give & take situation. It takes money to make money, and why should us "taxpayers" spend nothing, and still benefit, because there's a lot of other people in America that would love to pay a few extra dollars (or less considering where they live) in taxes to live next to what's suppose to become, and see their kids & grand kids benefit w/ a better quality of life because of the financial sacrifice that we're going to end up making...
    "And as I've always said", you have to see the bigger picture long term. If it was only a matter of short term success, the United States would be a bottom of the list country w/ everyone here not having as much because of the lack of credit...
    Lastly, as great of a "investigating reporter" as you became or becoming, I would say to try to remember that just because it's not in the news, doesn't mean it's not happening or happened, and just because it's reported as what it's reported to be doesn't mean it's not a smoke screen to the truth. Which is how the Government gets by & around things for the sake of bad & good things, lol...

    1. And what if the smartest businessman in Tampa, Vinik, doesn't believe building a baseball stadium is a good idea? You are sure convinced he is...

  4. It's not about if he thinks he believes or not, it's about him knowing the Rays are moving across the street, and will draw 25k 81+ days a year to an area where he has his businesses that surround it. It seems to be more Vinik's playground, and Stu just wants to add a jungle gym to it (lol)...
    Plus, I said "the smartest front office in sports, and about Vinik's success so far in life, not the "smartest businessman. Though the smartest hire the smartest to work with...
    I just find it hard to believe all this about Channelside's future hasn't been dug into by "investigative reporters", it's not hard to add everything up, and see the big picture. Either everyone doesn't really care or is to dumb. Either I'm one of the only ones that get it (by reading & watching everything about the Rays stadium, Channelside, and what's on the horizon around there with refurbished expressways, townhouses, future condos, bars, shopping, etc. for over last many years), or I'm the only one that doesn't get it, lol...

    1. IRT the last sentence: my money is squarely on the latter being the case.