By Jo-Lynn Brown
Tampa Bay area businessman Bill Edwards sold the Tampa Bay Rowdies team to the Tampa Bay Rays for an undisclosed sum.
Management will transition at the conclusion of the season, at which time the Rays will take over the existing contract with the City of St Petersburg for management of Al Lang Stadium, where the team will continue to play matches.
A part of the agreement was to keep the Rowdies at Al Lang, at least for five years, Edwards said at the press conference.
“I’ve done the things I’ve wanted to do. Mission accomplished, I’m out!” Edwards said to the audience the press conference.
Matt Silverman, president of baseball operations for the Rays, addressed the obvious question in people’s minds — what connection, if any, does this have to the Rays plans to move to a new stadium in Ybor?
“The answer is simple, there is no connection,” Silverman said. “The Rays are committed to our ballpark plans in Ybor and we are committed to the Rowdies playing at Al Lang.”
Rowdies Vice President and COO Lee Cohen will remain with the club.
“I am incredibly grateful to Bill for the tremendous investment he has made in the Rowdies and Al Lang Stadium, and the passion he brought to the Tampa Bay sports community and to the soccer community globally. I have spent some time with Matt and I look forward to continuing to build on the successes we have had over the last five years and ensuring a seamless transition for our amazing supporters and fans,” Cohen stated in a prepared press release.
Edwards will continue to work on expanding Al Lang’s concert series offerings and expanding the use of the stadium for more events.
“This is an investment for the Rowdies but also a significant investment in downtown St. Pete,” Silverman said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was on hand to celebrate what he said is “a perfect marriage.”
“I want to thank Bill Edwards for bringing this team back to life,” Kriseman said wearing a Rowdies scarf and a Rays ballcap.
Jake Edwards, president of the United Soccer League, said he would miss the Monday morning talks with Edwards as they reviewed the referee calls from the weekend.
Edwards purchased the team in December 2013 and has since invested millions of dollars in stadium renovations, player and coaching personnel, youth soccer development and more.
The Tampa Bay United Rowdies Youth Soccer Club has expanded to serve more than 3,200 young players each year; and active affiliations with local Youth Clubs and Athletic Associations serve nearly 13,000 youth from age 3-19.
“The sale is bittersweet,” said Edwards. “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.”