Tampa Bay Rays Buy the Rowdies
The Rays will also take over the existing contract with the city of St. Petersburg for management of the landmark Al Lang Stadium, where the team will continue to play matches.
Management will transition at the conclusion of the season, at which time the Rays will also take over the existing contract with the city of St. Petersburg for management of the landmark Al Lang Stadium, where the team will continue to play matches.
Rowdies VP & COO Lee Cohen will remain with the club.
“I am incredibly grateful to Bill for the tremendous investment he has made in the Rowdies and Al Lang Stadium, and the passion he brought to the Tampa Bay sports community and to the soccer community globally,” Cohen said. “I have spent some time with Matt and I look forward to continuing to build on the successes we have had over the last five years and ensuring a seamless transition for our amazing supporters and fans.”
Edwards purchased the team in December 2013 and has since invested millions of dollars in stadium renovations, player and coaching personnel, youth soccer development and more.
“The sale is bittersweet,” Edwards said. “When I purchased the Rowdies, they were on the brink of bankruptcy; today they are champions fighting for their rightful spot in the USL Playoffs.
“I saw the potential of the team, and what it could mean for downtown St. Petersburg. I invested my blood, sweat, tears and money, and built an amazing staff that I could not be more proud of. The Rowdies have made great strides, truly becoming a key fixture in the community.
“I am grateful to the staff and players who have worked so hard, as well as the many sponsors who have stuck with us over the past five years; and I am especially grateful to the fans! We have the best soccer fans in the world, and I don’t want them to worry. The team is in great hands. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said, “Mr. Edwards deserves much appreciation for remaking the Tampa Bay Rowdies and investing in Al Lang Stadium and our community. Similarly, the Tampa Bay Rays’ leadership has remade their baseball organization and placed considerable emphasis on community engagement. I am confident that this is a positive development for all parties, the great fans of both teams, and the city of St. Petersburg.”
Since Edwards’ acquisition of the Rowdies, ticket sales and attendance have increased dramatically, with home games each bringing more than 5,500 fans to downtown St. Petersburg. The local business community has rallied to support the team as well, with sponsorships climbing to unprecedented levels. The Tampa Bay United Rowdies Youth Soccer Club has expanded to serve more than 3,200 young players each year; and active affiliations with local Youth Clubs and Athletic Associations serve nearly 13,000 youth from age 3-19.
Al Lang Stadium has also become home to professional soccer spring training, hosting the MLS Suncoast Invitational as well as the Florida Cup, bringing international teams and their fans to the St. Petersburg waterfront.
“We are committed to continuing the upward trajectory that the Rowdies have been experiencing under Bill’s visionary leadership,” Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman said. “The Tampa Bay Rowdies are a legendary soccer team, and we look forward to extending their legacy and prominence. We are eager to get to know Ralph’s Mob and all the Rowdies fans, to growing soccer in St. Petersburg and throughout Tampa Bay, and of course, bringing home a championship, which could be imminent!”
Edwards’ Big 3 Entertainment will continue to produce the Al Lang Live concert series in partnership with Live Nation, and remains manager of the neighboring Mahaffey Theater. Edwards also owns and operates the Sundial lifestyle center.
Photo shows Bill Edwards, left, and Matt Silverman during a press conference today (Oct. 2). Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
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