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. Tampa Bay Downs full of high-paying races this season

    Parimutuels

    OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs is green like never before.

  2. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  3. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  4. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  5. Bucs journal: LB Kwon Alexander ready to return from injury

    Bucs

    TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the second quarter of the Bucs' season opener against Chicago, will finally make a healthy return Sunday against the Bills.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander needs “to get my stats back up” after being out since the opener.