Tampa Bay Rowdies fans can be forgiven for feeling like they got a gut punch in the fight to gain control of Al Lang Stadium. A proposed deal for the St Petersburg Baseball Commission to cede control of the stadium and for Bill Edwards’ company Big 3 Entertainment to take over starting next week has fallen apart at the last moment.
There is a lot of noise swirling around regarding who or what caused the deal to fall apart so close to the scheduled city council vote. Both sides will predictably shift blame. People will use this as evidence of the deep political rift between Democratic Mayor Rick Kriseman and Republican Bill Edwards. Some claim that the mayor began to regret the decision to allow Edwards to manage another important St Petersburg venue along with The Mahaffey Theater and Sundial.
But the truth is the reasons for this particular deal slipping away for the time being are inconsequential. What matters is that the delusion of top tier baseball returning to Al Lang is fading away in the mayor’s office and city council. When the deal was first announced Mayor Kriseman stated to the Tampa Bay Times that the outdated facility is no longer attractive to major league baseball team. City Council Chairman Bill Dudley expressed a similar opinion in the same article. “I’m pragmatic. I understand that baseball would be a little tough these days,” Dudley said. “The field will get more use, which makes sense.” Any political disagreements and hurt egos can be overcome as long as both sides are devoid of any fantastical pipe dreams about Al Lang’s baseball relevance. The more people with influence that discover the obituary on baseball at Al Lang that every Rowdies fan is already privy to, the easier it will be start talking about the Rowdies long term future at the site.
This stalled deal to oust the Baseball Commission may be put back on the table down the road, depending largely on how the legal dispute between Edwards and the Baseball Commission continues to play out. The deal, though would have just been the spoonful of icing you snag while you patiently wait for your cake to finish off in the oven. The cake, for Rowdies fans is a shiny new stadium on the Al Lang site. That’s only attainable if Bill Edwards and fans can convince the city to include one in the final iteration of the Downtown Waterfront Masterplan.
So take a minute today to be disappointed that you couldn’t find that icing you thought for sure you had in the pantry. When that minute is up go check on your cake to make sure it is rising properly. This is the fight every fan should be focused on. Go to http://www.stpeteinnovision.com/ and engage in the online discussion for the Masterplan. Look up the schedule for public meetings dealing with the Masterplan and show up to voice your support. Comment on and share articles. Contact City Council members or the Mayor’s office. Showing up to games and watch parties is important, but equally important to the fate of the Rowdies is the backing they receive from fans in public and digital forums. Think about how great it felt to believe, even for a brief few days that the Rowdies would finally be able to call Al Lang theirs and theirs alone. We can have so much more than that if we keep striving to prove the Rowdies worth to St Pete and the entire Tampa Bay area.