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New Tampa Bay Rowdies pick stadium site

TAMPA — Investors want to locate a professional soccer stadium for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in Town 'N Country.

The Rowdies organization has confirmed a Times report on Thursday that plans for the stadium call for development on 18 acres near the Veterans Expressway and Waters Avenue.

The new Rowdies venue promises to be considerably spiffier than Tampa Stadium (the "Big Sombrero"), where the first incarnation of the team played from 1975 to 1993.

Perry Van Der Beck, a member of the original Tampa Bay Rowdies who is now a marketing official with the team, outlined stadium plans on Wednesday to board members of the Brandon Area Youth Soccer League.

The group of investors behind the project includes Rowdies co-owner and team president Andrew Nestor; his business partner, Waltham, Mass., investor Hinds Howard; Bern's Steak House president David Laxer; and Scottish investor Jeffrey MacDonald.

"They're young, they're aggressive and they're smart," Van Der Beck said of the ownership group.

When contacted by the Times, Nestor acknowledged an approximate stadium location at Waters Avenue and the expressway but would not say which quadrant. Property records show six plots of land owned by the Laxer Family Limited Partnership southeast of the intersection.

Nestor said the stadium would be paid for with private funds, but did not disclose whether his group has acquired all the land or secured the funds needed to build the stadium.

Van Der Beck described a gleaming structure that would seat 5,500 at first, with the option of expanding to as many as 15,000 seats. A concession stand would occupy a mid level of the stadium, with seats below and luxury boxes above, Van Der Beck said.

Private funding would free the Rowdies from the expense of renting parking or concession space, as did the Tampa Bay Mutiny of Major League Soccer at Raymond James Stadium before going out of business in 2001. Moreover, Van Der Beck said, ownership allows the Rowdies to play host to a variety of events, from sports to concerts.

"In Pinellas County or Tampa, from lacrosse to the Final Four," Van Der Beck said, "if they want to play, bring it on."

Current visions include a gift shop that would sell Rowdies throwback merchandise. The stadium's name is up for grabs and will likely be a corporate sponsor, Van Der Beck said.

Owners intend for the Rowdies to play their first game in April 2010, as part of the United Soccer Leagues based in Carrollwood. In the meantime, they hope to field an amateur team from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties for exhibition play.

The Rowdies organization plans to unveil stadium plans and a team logo in mid September.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at ameacham@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2431. Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at (727) 893-8683 or eencina@sptimes.com.

New Tampa Bay Rowdies pick stadium site 08/21/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 10:58am]
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