Friday, May 25, 2018
News Roundup

Edwards says Al Lang expansion isn't about moving Rowdies to MLS

ST. PETERSBURG — Does Bill Edwards want a Major League Soccer team or not?

That's one of the questions swirling about as Mayor Rick Kriseman plans to put a question on the November ballot about extending Edwards' control over Al Lang Stadium, where his Tampa Bay Rowdies play.

Edwards recently told Kriseman he wants an MLS team and needs to expand the historic stadium to get a franchise. At least that's what City Council Chairwoman Amy Foster said Kriseman told her in a meeting last week. It's also what Edwards has told her and other council members previously, Foster said.

"That's what Bill Edwards wants," she said Thursday. "Kriseman mentioned that Bill Edwards wants to go after MLS. Bill Edwards has told us all that before, as well."

The Rowdies are in the lower-tier North American Soccer League.

Kriseman declined to comment on whether Edwards told him he wanted an MLS team or whether he had told Foster about Edwards' intentions.

"The pursuit of MLS is just not a city issue," said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman.

Shortly after buying the Rowdies in 2014, Edwards told the Tampa Bay Times that joining the MLS was a "no-brainer" and that St. Petersburg would be the "perfect place" for the country's premier soccer league to expand.

But on Wednesday, Orlando City SC, the popular, newly awarded MLS franchise, told the Times it had exclusive MLS rights over Tampa Bay.

Any discussion of a new MLS franchise would have to include Orlando City. And no one — not MLS, the city or the Rowdies — had inquired, said Leonardo Santiago, the team's vice president of communications.

In response to a story posted earlier Thursday on the Times' Bay Buzz blog, Edwards said any discussion of joining the MLS was "premature and not part of our present plans." In the statement, Edwards praised the NASL and said he was confident that the league will continue to grow and prosper.

Kriseman has reached "similar conclusions," Edwards said.

"Our mutual objective is to obtain a long-term lease for Al Lang Stadium in order to ensure that the Rowdies have the opportunity to grow and succeed in St. Pete," the statement read.

Edwards has told the Times in previous interviews that he wanted to expand the stadium, perhaps up to 18,000 seats. That cost has been estimated at up to $70 million.

Foster said the Kriseman administration has been talking to Dunedin and Clearwater about jointly asking the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council for bed tax money for their respective needs: an expansion of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a new Blue Jays spring training facility and the Al Lang expansion.

She said the request wouldn't interfere with bed tax money that might be needed for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Pinellas County because 1 cent has already been reserved for that purpose. The combined request for Al Lang, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Blue Jays facility would come from a "different pot" of tourist bed tax money, she said.

Kirby didn't respond when asked about the joint effort. The terms and length of the Al Lang lease are still being negotiated, he said.

The city charter requires that the question about extending the lease go before voters.

In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays gave up on plans to build a stadium on the Al Lang site after resident opposition.

Council member Karl Nurse said he isn't enthusiastic about expanding Al Lang for soccer, especially minor-league soccer.

"For the last 40 years, soccer was supposed to be the next big thing," he said.

The City Council must approve any referendum before an Aug. 23 deadline, City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch told council members.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)893-8459.

Comments
Two accused of turning St. Petersburg test drive into carjacking

Two accused of turning St. Petersburg test drive into carjacking

MADEIRA BEACH ó Two men were arrested Thursday after a carjacking during a test drive led to a crash on Gulf Boulevard less than an hour later, according to the Pinellas County Sheriffís Office. According to deputies, 30-year-old Robert Gajate went t...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Potential tropical system still on pace to drench Tampa Bay

Potential tropical system still on pace to drench Tampa Bay

TAMPAó Memorial Day weekend plans may have to move indoors this year.RELATED: Sunset Music Festival, more outdoor concerts could be soaked by weekend rainForecasters with the National Weather Service in Ruskin say a low-pressure system in the Caribbe...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Indianapolis 500: How Danica Patrick changed racing

Indianapolis 500: How Danica Patrick changed racing

Tampa's Carlie Yent was at a racing banquet a few years ago when someone asked her to name the driver who influenced her the most.The answer was easy and obvious: Danica Patrick."She was someone I could look up to," Yent said, "and she was the most i...
Updated: 1 hour ago
After Danica Patrick, why arenít there more women in auto racing?

After Danica Patrick, why arenít there more women in auto racing?

If you assumed Danica Patrick's success would lead to a tidal wave of female drivers into racing's top series, you're not alone."I kind of thought the Danica thing would bring out a lot of people, honestly," said Tampa's Megan Rae Meyer, a 21-year-ol...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Latest on potential tropical system; taking action along dangerous Bayshore Boulevard; Denis Philips talks hurricanes and beer; Memorial Day things to do

The Daystarter: Latest on potential tropical system; taking action along dangerous Bayshore Boulevard; Denis Philips talks hurricanes and beer; Memorial Day things to do

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.ē Todayís forecast calls for warm and humid weather up until lunch time. Then in the late afternoon thereís an up to 80 percent chance of thundershowers and the rain wonít let up until ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

Denis Phillips, hurricane season guru, talks his signature beer, suspenders and Rule #7

SAFETY HARBOR ó Denis Phillips cracks a pop-top and pulls a can that looks a lot like him to his lips."Itís got that citrusy feel to it," he says. "Which is a Florida thing. Thatís not bad." Indeed, thereís a grapefruit finish to Rule #7 Hurricane Sa...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Felled by fire, popular tower at Wall Springs Park to reopen soon

Felled by fire, popular tower at Wall Springs Park to reopen soon

PALM HARBOR ó The long, strange saga of the Wall Springs Park observation tower is finally coming to a close as county officials hope the rebuilt structure, along with refurbished decking leading up to it, will be open in time for the Fourth of July....
Updated: 3 hours ago
Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

Carlton: Senseless death on a street like no other

On a Wednesday morning, a mother and her little girl, not quite 2, went for a stroll along one of Tampaís prettiest streets.It was nearly lunchtime when they were crossing back over Bayshore Boulevard, headed to the home nearby where they were stayin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Calvary Christianís record win streak ends in state final

Calvary Christianís record win streak ends in state final

FORT MYERS — One of the most impressive streaks in high school baseball came to an end early Friday morning.Calvary Christian lost the Class 4A state championship 5-1 to Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian at Hammond Stadium in a game that ended ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
National NAACP leader to speak at Clearwater banquet

National NAACP leader to speak at Clearwater banquet

CLEARWATER ó The NAACP Clearwater Upper Pinellas branch will have a heavy hitting guest for its 44th annual Freedom Fund Banquet on June 1. National NAACP President Derrick Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the fundraiser, which will be held at ...
Published: 05/25/18