Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bill Edwards, Rowdies contingent make in-person MLS pitch

Rowdies chairman and CEO Bill Edwards, center, and former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker, right, make their presentation to MLS executive Mark Abbott in New York.

Courtesy of Rowdies

Rowdies chairman and CEO Bill Edwards, center, and former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker, right, make their presentation to MLS executive Mark Abbott in New York.

With a cleverly concocted phrase and a large show of support, Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards went to work in New York City.

Monday afternoon, Edwards turned in the required formal paperwork stating that his Rowdies have applied to become a member of Major League Soccer. In three months, if not sooner, MLS will announce its two expansion franchises.

The Rowdies could have just mailed in a few pages, as long as it was done before the Tuesday deadline for cities to submit applications.

Then again, what Edwards brought would have required some serious postage. A bulky packet filled with more than 200 letters of support from local politicians, and an entourage of about 30 co-workers and friends, found their way into the MLS headquarters.

And though there was no expectation of meeting with league officials, the crew sat down with league deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, who took in a video presentation touting the bid.

"We had a great time," Edwards said. "We met for about an hour, had a lot of fun. (Abbott) was very hospitable and when it was over, he even applauded."

The Rowdies have competition in the form of 10 other cities. Two more expansion towns will be added in the future but Edwards wants to get in on the first go.

Inside a package labeled "We Brought Our Pitch To You" was a video showing renderings of Edwards' proposed expansion of Al Lang into an 18,000-seat facility, were it to gain MLS designation. The Rowdies unveiled the plans last month along with the campaign #MLS2StPete.

"We had about a month to put this together and I'm very proud of my people to come up with such a presentation," he said. "I think they appreciated the hard work we put into it."

Edwards stressed several factors that seem to favor the Rowdies. Tampa Bay is the largest media market (11th) without an MLS franchise (the Rowdies' new league, the USL, recently gained second-division status). The in-existence stadium helps, as will the promise to use only his money to fund the improvements, expected to run in the $80 million range.

Along with key Rowdies staff, the meeting featured members of the Rowdies' fan group Ralph's Mob and honorary player Cole Eicher, a 14-year cancer survivor.

"The MLS staff were wide-eyed about the presence of the contingent for the Rowdies going through their main office," said Stephen Cundiff, president of Ralph's Mob.

Now for the next part of the equation: getting a bunch of folks through the turnstiles when the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational comes to Al Lang on Feb. 18 and 25. The Rowdies will play against MLS' Philadelphia and Montreal. Three other MLS clubs will participate, culminating with a triple-header on the 25th.

Sellouts would largely impress the league.

"It is a big event," Edwards said. "One thing's for sure, MLS teams like coming here for their spring training. We need the fans to come out and show their support. Let's face it; we want to be in that league."

Bill Edwards, Rowdies contingent make in-person MLS pitch 01/30/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 30, 2017 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jameis Winston's subtle but strong moment of leadership displayed on 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    Quarterback Jameis Winston went to each teammate in the locker room prior to the Bucs' preseason opener Friday at Cincinnati with one message: 'I got your back.'

    Then he proved it.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston throws during the first half of the team's preseason NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Friday in Cincinnati. [AP photo]
  2. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Highlights — and fights — from Jacksonville

    Bucs

    Greg Auman is back home after two days of joint practices between the Bucs and Jaguars in Jacksonville. He recaps those practices — and fights — and talks about highlights from Tuesday's episode …

    Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Kenneth Walker, right, cannot snag a pass against Bucs cornerback Ryan Smith during a joint NFL football practice Monday in Jacksonville. [Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union]
  3. Who's No. 2: Florida State Seminoles or Ohio State Buckeyes?

    Blogs

    The toughest decision in my first stint as a voter for the AP Top 25 came at the top.

  4. Rays morning after: The real reasons behind Tuesday's win over Blue Jays

    Blogs

    Scoring six runs was the big news for the offensively challenged Rays in Tuesday's victory over the Blue Jays.

    Corey Dickerson (10) celebrates Tuesday's victory with Steven Souza Jr. (20) and Peter Bourjos (18).
  5. Jones: Roberto Aguayo getting the boot was star of Tuesday's 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Roberto gets cut.

    That was the big story line heading into the second episode of HBO's Hard Knocks, the behind-the-scenes look at Bucs training camp. In fact, it was one of the most anticipated story lines Hard Knocks has had in years.

    Roberto Aguayo watches one of his final kicks Friday for the Bucs.