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Rowdies’ owner Bill Edwards envisions bigger home for team

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Bill Edwards likes what soccer has become. He likes even better what it may grow into.

On Thursday, Edwards — owner of the Rowdies — said he could imagine Al Lang Stadium growing into a facility that would seat 18,500 fans.

Coupled with the just-announced 25,000 seat stadium in Orlando, it’s another example of the sports’ growth in Florida. There are now teams in St. Petersburg, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami.

Edwards originally was supposed to provide $1.5 million in improvements to Al Lang Stadium, but he said the cost has been $3 million.

“I plan on staying,” Edwards said. “We’ve had talks with the city about an extension and expansion. We sold out seven games last year and came very close to the rest of them. Right here. We’ve got the footprint. It’s just a matter of finding the money to make it done.”

If that happens, the Rowdies could end up in downtown St. Petersburg for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve had conversations,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “We’re definitely interested in seeing what we can put together. We love having the Rowdies here. He’s invested not only his money, but his heart and soul.

“We’ve got to try to put together a deal that works for the Rowdies and the taxpayers. We’re not going to wait until four years to have conversations. We’re already having them.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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