Al Lang Stadium – Tampa Bay Rowdies
Feeling the #MLS2StPete Vibe
Taking in a Tampa Bay Rowdies game can be a bit of a surreal experience. Here in the middle of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, sits a former Minor League Baseball stadium that has been transformed into the home of a professional soccer team, where fans tailgate and march through the city center before singing the entire game in support of their favorite team. This is definitely not something you would expect to be seeing in the south, and yet, it stands out as an incredible game day experience.
In the past year, the franchise has been trying to woo the likes of MLS, including a referendum that was overwhelmingly approved by voters to renovate and fully transform Al Lang Stadium into a premiere MLS facility. The roots of the passion that could make the move successful are easily visible here.
Food & Beverage 4
The best thing about the food at Al Lang Stadium is its affordability. A beer ranges from just $6 to $9, with soda and bottled water averaging $4. A burger is just $6 and a hot dog just $4, making the Rowdies insanely affordable compared to most professional sports teams. There is even a concessions stand open in the kids zone just for your child, which features sno cones, cotton candy, and ice cream. The quality of the food is also top notch, with everything made fresh in front of you.
The atmosphere is electric, to say the least. The entire game is filled with the songs and chants of Ralph’s Mob as they keep the excitement going. The fans explode with a roar whenever the Rowdies score a goal.
The surrounding area provides a beautiful backdrop for a night of soccer. And to make things even better, the fans are allowed onto the edge of the field after some games to get player autographs, take photos, and get an up-close look at the pitch at Al Lang Stadium.
In addition, the stadium’s big-screen scoreboard provides great replays of each important moment on the pitch, as well as stats and information about what is happening throughout the rest of the league. For those who are into social media, there are even special Snapchat filters for the games, helping fans connect and express their support in a host of ways.
St. Petersburg is a growing city on the rise. It is a mix of vacationers, college students (USF has a campus literally steps away from the stadium), and professionals mixing with both city and suburban folks.
The neighborhood around Al Lang Stadium is evolving into a high quality of life location that features some of the best hole-in-the-wall eateries you can imagine, with traditional shopping and dining (CVS, Publix, and others are there to help meet your shopping needs).
Hotels and resorts vary from motels a few blocks away to the beautiful Hilton in the heart of downtown that puts you close to the main gate. Just steps away are a SpringHill Suites and a Hampton Inn for lodging options. In addition, situated right on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the beach is right next door to the city, just a few minutes’ drive away. Often rated among the greatest beaches in the country, relaxation under the sun is easier than ever.
Not to be forgotten, the people are gracious, kind, and welcoming, making even the most travel-weary fan at the game feel like they’re right at home.
The mere fact that there are seats in some parts of the stadium is funny, as fans never sit in them for the whole game. Ralph’s Mob, the team’s official supporters club, stands the whole match, singing away for their favorite team and giving the opponents a hard time all the while. It is what one would imagine proper football to feel like as a fan, with all the passion, while remaining family-friendly.
Something you notice right away is the number of kids and families at the game. There are a ton of children watching the game with their parents, and it adds to the family-friendly atmosphere.
Getting to Al Lang Stadium is as easy as possible, with I-175 and I-375 branching off of I-275, literally ending on the street in downtown St. Pete that leads to the main entrance. How much easier is it to find than that?
Parking right in front of the entrance is a mere $5, with various lots around Al Lang Stadium charging anywhere from $5 to $10. The Rowdies have their own officially-sanctioned parking lots and garages around town to help fans find the best place to park. The parking is also plentiful, regardless of how busy the game is going to be, which makes for an easier time finding somewhere to park for someone who isn’t familiar with the area. The stadium itself isn’t very big, so getting to your seat is also easy once you’re inside.
After the game, fans are invited down onto the pitch for player autographs and photos, something few professional sports franchises actually do.
Return on Investment 5
There are few sports experiences in Florida as rewarding and enjoyable as a Rowdies game. They really know how to put on a show, party it up, and have fun all at the same time.
The price of tickets can be as low as $26 for a seat in the stadium, and kids’ tickets are just $10. This makes for one of the most affordable professional soccer experiences in the country, let alone the state of Florida. Add to this the affordability of food and drinks at the game, and a family of four can go to a game and get food, while still having money left over for souvenirs.
The Rowdies fan club, Ralph’s Mob, have a massive tailgate before each game, and then march down to the field. Their path takes them through the heart of St. Pete in a wide circle complete with drums, flags, and fans singing the songs of Rowdies-nation. One of the stops along the way is at the Rowdies’ official bar, The Rowdies Den, just a few blocks away from the stadium.
What else in sports is more iconic than a mascot?! The Rowdies have their own mascot who roams the stands, helping the fans get into the mood, and pumps up the crowd by dancing on the sidelines at halftime.
Something else that adds to the excitement is the band that plays at all the games. Made up of local high school kids and young musicians, the band plays before the game in the tailgate, and even takes part in the pre-game march sometimes, while also taking residence at the top corner of the grandstand during the game.
Something else Al Lang Stadium has that few other venues have is one of the best views in sports. On one side, the grandstand provides a great view of the towering buildings of downtown St. Petersburg. On the other, a view of beautiful Tampa Bay’s waters greets fans. It is hard to argue with the aesthetics of the facility’s surroundings.
Something few fans may realize is that the stadium sits in the middle of the course layout for the annual IndyCar Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. During race weekend, the stadium doubles as a photographer’s stand during the race. When walking through the parking lot, you can see the rumble strips on the ground and the red lines painted on the roads around the stadium that show where the barriers are laid out on race weekends.
Finally, each game fans get the chance to win $1,000 in a contest the team conducts. The game day programs each contain a new code, and each Tuesday after the game the winning code is announced, with the fan holding that code taking home a cool stack of cash.
Tampa Bay may not have an MLS team like they once did, but the Rowdies’ USL program certainly provides the same level of excitement and fun. The franchise’s owners are hoping that rekindling that love of soccer will eventually pay off with an MLS team once again.
In the meantime, whether you’re looking to take the whole family or just go solo for a night of sports, the Rowdies will provide a safe, fun, and enjoyable event in a great central location for young people and families alike, in one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
Since this is a baseball stadium first, the pitch is set up with one goal where 3rd base usually would be and the boundary running straight into right field. That means the two major selling points of the stadium are right behind the northeast goal: Ralph&#039s Mob and Tampa Bay. You can also see the beauty of the Bay and all the boats in the harbor when sitting along what would normally be the 1st base line. Whatever flaws the stadium may have being a 70-year-old ballpark are more than made up with those charms.