There has been little public opposition to the May 2nd referendum in St. Petersburg that would allow the Tampa Bay Rowdies to negotiate a 25-year lease with the city to expand Al Lang Stadium.
If approved by voters, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards would have the go-ahead to expand seating capacity to 18,000, making it eligible to join Major League Soccer, a higher division of professional soccer. The expansion would cost approximately $80 million, but none of it would come from taxpayers.
“The opportunity to have a private company re-build and expand a St. Petersburg waterfront venue entirely on their own dime is a breath of fresh air,” writes St. Petersburg Tea Party activist David McKalip, in a blog post titled, “Vote Yes on Rowdies Referendum – Private Funding for Public Benefit is Model for Future, Rays and Pier!”
“This is a major change from the past demagoguing of such efforts by duplicitous politicians who disparaged similar efforts as ‘privatization’. They always have seemed to prefer taxpayer dollars to be handed over to corporations for the Rays, the Pier, the Grand Prix and more,” McKalip writes.
McKalip was a candidate for City Council four years ago, when he campaigned on a platform that included having the city offer a long term lease to a private company to rebuild and manager the Pier, which was front and center in the news in 2013 with the Lens proposal (which went down to defeat in August of that year).
A St. Pete Polls survey released earlier this week showed that the referendum for the Rowdies is winning easily in the city, getting 70 percent support, with just 19 percent opposing it.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is the point man for Edwards on the referendum, and has been meeting for weeks with neighborhood groups throughout the city. He said last week that he has encountered little to no dissent at any of his public events.