Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa Bay Rowdies unhappy with the condition of Al Lang Stadium

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a month to go until opening day, the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer club filed a list of grievances with the city about their home turf, Al Lang Stadium.

In a letter to city officials, Rowdies attorney Wes Bailey cited a laundry list of concerns broken down into three categories: field maintenance, building and facility maintenance and custodial services.

Among the many complaints: The air conditioning smells of mold. The dugouts are dirty. Light bulbs are out on the scoreboard. Seats are broken and weeds litter the playing field.

"I think that the city should start to pay attention to the fact that Al Lang's in disrepair," said Bill Edwards, the St. Petersburg businessman who bought a controlling share of the Rowdies in December. "It's not conducive for a professional sports team."

The city relies on the St. Petersburg Baseball commission to handle maintenance and events at Al Lang and the Walter Fuller Baseball Complex.

Joe Zeoli, the managing director for City Development Administration, handles the city's contract with the commission and acknowledged the 37-year-old stadium is "due for some tender-loving care."

"We all realize we have a facility at Al Lang Stadium that needs some renovations," he said.

Zeoli visited the stadium last week and prioritized what needed to be done before the Rowdies' April 12 season opener against FC Edmonton: clean up the restrooms, locker rooms, concourses, concession areas and arrange adequate seating for fans.

Zeoli said the team's previous concerns had been addressed during regular meetings with the city, baseball commission and team. However, he said they had not met since Edwards bought the team.

The city budgets $100,000 a year to maintain the stadium's air-conditioner system, field lighting system, sound system, and main concourses as well as renovating the restrooms, interior signs, fencing and in-field padding.

As far as long-term renovations, that fixed budget might be too small, Zeoli said, but it's too early to know how much work is needed or what those renovations might cost.

Commission director Steve Nadel said he was surprised by the aggressive tone of the team's letter and said all the complaints are false.

For five years other professional sports teams have been satisfied playing there, he said, and noted that the Rowdies signed a four-year contract extension last year. The Rowdies settled in Al Lang Stadium as primary tenants in 2011 after moving from Tampa's Steinbrenner Field.

"SPBC in its agreements with Rowdies is meeting and exceeding all of our obligations," he said.

The commission has about a dozen full-time maintenance workers.

Nadel did not allow Times photographers into the stadium, citing preparations for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend.

Colleen Wright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8913. Follow her on Twitter @Colleen_Wright.

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