Sunday, May 27, 2018
Business

Bill Edwards muses on new Rowdies stadium, other plans

ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Edwards, St. Petersburg businessman turned civic fixer-upper, entered the den of the Suncoast Tiger Bay political club Tuesday to pitch his latest reclamation project: the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Attendance is building enough that the soccer team will gradually outgrow Al Lang Field, he said.

"Really, we need a new stadium someday," he said, seeding the idea of building a new waterfront venue. "That's my dream."

Several members of the standing-room-only lunch crowd had a different agenda. Soccer aside, they wanted to know what the fix-it man plans to do for an encore.

Will he reopen a shuttered movie theater in St. Pete Beach? ("We'll have to look into it," he said.)

How about a deteriorating former hotel and adjacent building at Fourth Street and Central Avenue that has been frozen for decades because of a complicated lease? (Hadn't heard, but will check it out.)

Any interest in the Pier? (Not planning to buy it and doesn't advocate a major overhaul. "In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with the Pier other than getting redone.")

What if he bought the Tampa Bay Rays? ("I would go to a mental institution.")

He also drew the line at operating water taxis between St. Petersburg and Tampa. ("If it springs a leak, don't call me.")

Edwards, 69, made his mark as a mortgage lender, though that business has fallen on rough times. His St. Petersburg company, Mortgage Investors Corp., stopped marketing VA loans in October, laying off hundreds of employees. Today, a skeleton crew of fewer than 30 remains to service existing loans, Edwards said.

Beyond selling mortgages, Edwards is a music producer and guiding force in more than 20 projects. He's spending $40 million on the Sundial entertainment plaza downtown and runs the Mahaffey Theater, the Club at Treasure Island and two Treasure Island hotels.

Edwards, who bought a majority stake in the Rowdies in December, was keen Tuesday on touting the team's quick financial turnaround. The team had budgeted for operating losses of about $1.6 million. Today, Edwards indicated, the Rowdies are not far away from breaking even. He struck a deal with Ch. 38 to televise games and signed up 33 sponsors. Five games into the season, he said, per-game attendance is up 150 percent, with average attendance of 5,000.

Arguably, the biggest venture on Edwards' plate is Sundial, an attempt to reinvigorate the failed BayWalk project. Edwards promised omnipresent cameras to avoid the security problems with unsupervised teens that had plagued BayWalk. To combat traffic woes, he offered to buy a parking garage himself if needed. Asked if an Apple store could be among the new tenants, he said, "Maybe something like an Apple store."

After the lunch, Edwards Group president Rick Baker said Sundial is still on track to open by Thanksgiving to capture the pivotal holiday sales season.

Brazen and proud, Edwards dismissed a suggestion that he may be overextended. Referring to a recent Tampa Bay Times graphic that depicted his many holdings across a Monopoly board dubbed "Billopoly," Edwards quipped, "They didn't get it all. … There's not enough squares on the board."

Asked if he holds any ill will toward media who reported about his earlier financial failings, Edwards gave a "sticks and stones can break my bones" reply.

"I don't give a rat's patootie what they have to say," he said.

Comments
An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

It began, as so many plane debacles seem to, with strange sounds in the bathroom.They were the noises of Jason Felix, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s American Airlines flight out of Saint Croix, according to a FBI affidavit recounting events lea...
Published: 05/26/18
Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Hope of another Stanley Cup has dissolved, and soon the ice will follow. Yet even if sorrow is the price of devotion, the true hockey fans will still buy in when the next season comes around. That concept may not be unique to Tampa Bay, but it does ...
Published: 05/26/18
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

LONDON — U.S. news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a ...
Published: 05/25/18
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is appealing a recent citation by federal regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the utility with a $76,050 fine and a "serious" violation in April following its investigation into an accident in ...
Published: 05/25/18
Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Associated PressDETROIT — Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until...
Published: 05/25/18
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Published: 05/25/18
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Published: 05/25/18
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Published: 05/25/18