Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mitch Perry Report 7.2.14: Can America's newfound love for soccer help Bill Edwards get a new stadium in St. Pete?

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 at 8:42 AM

click to enlarge 12_Tampa_Bay_Rowdies_0015.jpg
Can I begin with a little "straight talk," as John McCain used to say? For all of the love being thrown the way of the U.S. soccer team this morning, the American squad won all of one game in the 2014 World Cup.

In that respect, it's even more impressive that this country, which usually loves a winner (part of our "American exceptionalism"), could unite and root for the underdog, all in the name of catching up with the rest of the free world in its passion for this quadrennial affair. But whether that means "futbol" has finally become a dominant sport in the U.S. is a different question, and the details remain dubious today. Youth soccer has been huge in this country for over three decades, and in that time we've had professional soccer leagues. Nobody expects those leagues to rival the World Cup in terms of media intensity, but seriously, is this country only going to get fired up in big numbers for an event that happens every four years, but otherwise mostly ignore what its adherents boast is "the beautiful game?"

I've no idea, though historical evidence indicates that it won't break on through. But will more people start attending more MLS or NASL games throughout the country? It's huge in Seattle, whose team averages over 40,000 people per home game. The local Tampa Bay Rowdies play in the NASL, and this year are averaging around 5,000 people per game, a marked improvement in attendance in an expanded stadium that now holds approximately 7,600 seats. But that's not enough for new owner Bill Edwards, who'd ideally like an 18,000-20,000 seat stadium built on the site of Al Lang, and would love for St. Pete and Florida taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Might the popularity of the World Cup help? It surely couldn't hurt. But the fans and the community would need to show that level of support. And that's where Bill Edwards' appearance at yesterday's Tiger Bay Club gathering comes into play. In a rare appearance, the St. Pete tycoon focused on  getting buy-in from the St. Pete establishment for his Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer club, and the fact that he'd like to have the city help pay to build an expanded stadium to host the professional franchise. 

In other news…

Realizing that he doesn't believe the status quo is acceptable, President Obama has added troops to go to Iraq and proposed $500 million to send arms to Syrian "moderates." So how do Democrats feel about this? Congresswoman Kathy Castor and the man who'd like to join her in Washington this fall, CD15 candidate Alan Cohn, express their feelings on the issue.

Yes on Greenlight, the political action committee behind the Greenlight Pinellas measure, released an internal poll yesterday showing growing acceptance of the transit tax measure.


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