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Industry News

St.Petersburg residents vote in favour of MLS expansion franchise

Residents of St. Petersburg in Florida this week voted in favour of United Soccer League club the Tampa Bay Rowdies continuing to play at Al Lang Stadium if it were to become a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.

Voters approved the Al Lang Stadium referendum with 87 per cent support, which means the city council can now negotiate a long-term use agreement for the venue.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards has agreed to fund the MLS expansion fee, which is approximately $150m (£116m/€137m), along with the $80m price tag to renovate the stadium, if it is awarded an MLS franchise.

The 70-year-old stadium currently holds 7,500 fans. An expansion project would increase the capacity to 18,000.

“I am grateful to the citizens of St. Petersburg for passing this important referendum,” said Edwards.

“St. Petersburg is very protective of our incredibly valuable waterfront – as is appropriate.  We have put together a stadium plan that enhances our downtown, is of a scale that is respectful to our waterfront and does not burden the taxpayers.”

St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay is one of 12 cities that submitted a bid for an MLS expansion team. The league currently has 22 teams, with Los Angeles FC to be added in 2018 and a Miami team to join MLS pending a final stadium plan. Two further expansion teams will likely be added by 2020.