Monday, February 2, 2015

Edwards' Vision for 20k Rowdies Stadium May Mean Al Lang Retrofit

The Times' Charlie Frago has an update to Bill Edwards' push for a 18,000-20,000 seat soccer stadium, which may include expanding and retrofitting Al Lang Stadium, rather than a brand new complex {link to Times' story}:
Edwards said his ideas are preliminary, involve using vacant land on the western side of the stadium, and wouldn't increase the stadium's height or drastically increase its footprint.

Edwards said he didn't know how any expansion would be financed.

"It's just a pipe dream," he said in a phone interview.
An expansion of Al Lang Stadium, along with the addition of a hotel and conference center, would transform a key stretch of waterfront — a change that would require a referendum or a series of them.
Shadow of the Stadium's previous coverage of Edwards' plans include his interest in growing the team's stadium to MLS standards of 18,000-20,000 fans per game.

However, growing the fan base to that level may be just as hard as financing the construction; the Rowdies reportedly averaged just 4,301 fans this fall.  Edwards has hinted the stadium conditions are a big issue in drawing fans to the Downtown St. Pete venue, so we will see what some improvements this winter mean for the numbers.

As for the financing portion of it all, there are a lot of hungry mouths to compete with both at the state and local level.

In Pinellas County, there are many interests lobbying for bed tax dollars, possibly including the Rays as well as the Blue Jays, who are reportedly advancing along in their negotiations with the City of Dunedin on spring training facility upgrades.

And at the state level, I've been reporting how legislators are opening up state coffers for pro teams, making 13 million tax dollars available in annual commitments, which means $390 million in new tax dollars for stadiums over the next 30 years.

But the Rowdies - like the Blue Jays - will have to hurry since all the state money is likely to be claimed in the next 15 months or so.  And if they miss those dollars....well, the teams will just have to lobby the legislature to change the law again.

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