Sure, it wasn’t a global news maker or anything, but a new ownership group and an addition of leather seats for the Tampa Bay Rowdies players and fans at Al Lang Stadium will do.
St. Petersburg businessman and philanthropist Bill Edwards announced Thursday that he had purchased controlling interest in the Rowdies, becoming principal owner and team representative on the NASL Board of Governors. Edwards made the announcement in front of a throng of media members, fans and players at the Mahaffey Theater, which he coincidentally owns.
“I am excited about the opportunity to take an organization that has been successful and create the best team in American soccer and the best fan experience in American soccer,” Edwards said. “I am confident the fans will appreciate the additions we have implemented for next season.”
The most prominent effect will be the inclusion of premium midfield seating along the west sideline at Al Lang Stadium with a little more than 1,100 seats erected for each home contest. The premium stands will include approximately 212 premium Midfielder’s Club seats, which will be within 10 feet of the pitch and will wrap around integrated players’ benches.
The Midfielder’s Club membership will include a whole host of amenities, such as access to the exclusive lounge equipped with flat screen televisions, full service food and beverage, a player meet-and-greet at each game and two guest passes per year, per seat. For the full list of benefits, visit RowdiesSoccer.com.
Posters of the new set-up at Al Lang Stadium also included a new diamond-vision video screen and scoreboard, which would supposedly replace the scoreboard originally used for baseball games. While Edwards would not confirm if the new screen would be in place for the 2014 season, whispers from unnamed sources said it would most likely occur for the upcoming campaign.
The upgrades pleased the majority of fans in attendance at the announcement on Thursday. Most of those fans were members of the Ralph’s Mob, who were regularly mentioned by Edwards, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and other dignitaries throughout the ceremonies.
“My first impressions were this is a great shot in the arm for the club and pro soccer here in Tampa Bay, said Chris Dominguez, vice president of the Ralph’s Mob. “With Mr. Edwards on board, I believe he will take this club to levels we have never seen, including going back to the days of the Tampa Bay Mutiny. I’m impressed with the seating for the fans and the players because the players and coaches will be seating in areas which you see in professional leagues in Europe. So, it definitely is a boost for the club.”
As mentioned, the players’ benches will see an upgrade, going from standard metal benching to cushioned leather seats.
“That’s great news for our guys,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill, who flew in from England with his wife on Wednesday to be a part of the announcement. “Any positive addition is always a good thing. What Mr. Edwards seems to have in place for the club going forward is a boost for us as a team and definitely for our fans. I’m excited about what his influence might do in terms of signing players and competing with the level of recruitment of players that the (New York) Cosmos were able to do in their first year, considering the type of finances they had.”
The Rowdies also announced that Hill signed a one-year extension. Additionally, Hill later on hinted to reporters that he may sign a multi-year deal soon with details coming soon.