Tampa Bay Rowdies Sold
Bill Edwards, the outspoken owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the last five years has sold the USL team to the Tampa Bay Rays. The announcement came as a surprise to some, and means a new shift in the future direction of the team.
After attempting and failing in an MLS expansion bid last year, the Rowdies were left looking for a pathway forward to their future. After a year and a half of quiet, the announcement came this week in a press conference.
“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.”
While Edwards will no longer own the Rowdies, his company Big 3 Entertainment will continue to produce concerts at the stadium while Edwards maintains his management of the Mahaffey Theater next door and the nearby Sundial shopping district.
While details were not made public of the sale itself, it is understood the agreement keeps the Rowdies in St. Petersburg, and more specifically at Al Lang Stadium, for the next five years. Tampa Bay Rays team president Matt Silverman commended Edwards for his work at Al Lang Stadium, and insisted the team will remain at the stadium for the near future.
“Al Lang is a soccer venue now, and it’s a great one, and Bill has invested a lot of money into making it a soccer venue,” Silverman said to local media. “We think it should continue that way for the foreseeable future.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Krisemann says the team’s ownership deal may signal a potential push to keep the Rays in his city.
“To me, the message it sends is that the Rays recognize what’s happening in downtown St. Pete and have made an investment in a franchise that was already drawing well and continues to draw well and is bringing a lot of energy and excitement to the community,” said Krisemann. Perviously, Krisemann had jokingly said during this year’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that the city of Tampa wouldn’t take the Rays away from St. Petersburg without a fight.
The change in ownership also has an effect on the team’s potential MLS future. The Rays, while not completely ruling out the potential for an upward move to MLS, stated that plans were not being made for another push.
“It’s not something that we categorically rule out, but it’s not a part of our plans,” Silverman was quoted as saying. “We’re very happy with the Rowdies’ standing in the United Soccer League. We think it’s a great fit for the team and the venue we play in. We made this decision that we are going to be in the USL for a long time.”
For their part, MLS acknowledged the success the Rowdies have shown as well as the strong signal that an investment by the Rays shows the rest of the country.
“There is a rich history of professional soccer and the Rowdies in Tampa–St. Petersburg,” said MLS spokesperson Dan Courtemanche in a statement. “We congratulate both Bill Edwards and the Tampa Bay Rays on building on that history through this sale.”
Did you enjoy this content? Help support our work by becoming a supporter of Stadium Journey on Patreon. Supporter levels begin at just $2/month.