The 2012 season proved a turning point for the Tampa Bay Rowdies franchise, winning the NASL Soccer Bowl and further reigniting the legacy of the storied club. In just three years, the Rowdies have overcome several daunting obstacles and have rebuilt the club on and off the field, evolving into a premiere franchise in the North American Soccer League.
The reborn Rowdies played its inaugural season at Steinbrenner Field before moving to Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg for the 2011 season. Over the past two seasons the City of St. Petersburg has rallied around the club which has quickly become a part of the St. Pete community fabric. In September 2012, the Rowdies secured a four-year deal with the City of St. Petersburg to remain the primary tenant of Al Lang Stadium through the 2016 season. The Rowdies and the City have created a unique fan experience on St. Pete’s waterfront that has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from fans. In 2013, the stadium will undergo further renovations with the field being reconfigured as new on-field suites and hospitality areas are created. Led by Rowdies supporters group Ralph’s Mob, the fans create the best home field advantage in the NASL week in and week out, leading to a home record of 8 wins, 7 ties, and only 1 loss in 2012 league play.
The four-year timeframe of the new deal at Al Lang suits the Rowdies plan well, providing stability for the club and its supporters. This also allows for movement toward a future soccer-specific home which the Rowdies ownership group is currently working on.
The magical 2012 season featured a gutsy, spirited, and skilled team led by Coach of the Year Ricky Hill – a team with players whose passion, grit and personality harken back to the days of Iron Mike Connell, Rodney Marsh, and Steve Wegelre. In dramatic come from behind fashion, the Rowdies captured the 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl title beating the Minnesota Stars in penalty kicks on home field turf.
The NASL Soccer Bowl was the culmination of a journey that started on the frozen, wet fields of Liverpool FC academy grounds in England in December 2009, when the Rowdies held its first player combine with players from 10 different countries. That journey continued seeing Rowdies player Jeremy Christie feature in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Rowdies beating English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers FC in July 2011 at Al Lang Stadium, and its first NASL playoff game in October 2011.
The Rowdies organization was a key component of the risky formation of the new North American Soccer League, with Rowdies CEO Andrew Nestor representing the new NASL as part of its initial Executive Committee. This effort by several US Soccer second division clubs was an attempt by the team owners to stabilize and advance pro soccer in North America. It was a political and financial risk, but was done in the best interest of the sport always keeping in mind the long-term goal of the clubs, supporters, and players in our country.
Going into 2013, the NASL is blossoming with strong clubs throughout the US and Canada, the return of the legendary New York Cosmos, and future expansion into Indianapolis, Ottawa, and Virginia.
The Rowdies kick off the 2013 preseason in two days as an invited participant in the 2013 Disney Pro Soccer Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, FL. The tournament will feature the Rowdies and six Major League Soccer clubs. The Rowdies will proudly be the sole representative of the NASL and all games will be broadcasted live on the Major League Soccer website (mlssoccer.com). The club will also face off against Orlando City SC in the new I-4 Derby in March.
Community and inclusion has always been the hallmark of the Rowdies, and the club continues to reignite the passion of Tampa Bay’s soccer and sports community. These grassroots efforts to enrich the lives of Tampa Bay residents while providing a championship caliber team on the field have been recently recognized on four occasions. On November 8, 2012, the St. Petersburg City Council proclaimed the day officially Tampa Bay Rowdies Day. A month later, the club was recognized at the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners meeting, with a resolution by Commissioner Sandy Murman honoring the Rowdies for their achievements both on the field and in the community as role models and an economic engine for the area. The meeting on December 5 was highlighted by BOCC members speaking on the importance of the Rowdies involvement in Hillsborough County, as well as their commitment to helping the Rowdies develop a future home and fill the stands going forward.
On December 18, Pasco County Board of County Commissioners presented the club with a resolution supported by BCC Commissioner Henry Wilson of District 4 to honor the Rowdies for their 2012 NASL Soccer Bowl Championship and the club’s involvement with local Pasco County youth soccer programs. Finally, the Rowdies were honored on Thursday by the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida at the Florida Fairgrounds. Attorney General Pam Bondi presented a resolution supported by the Florida Cabinet honoring the club’s success.
The Rowdies growth continues into 2013 with high hopes for a repeat NASL title and further advancement of the brand. The club will feature its new Admiral kits as well as licensed merchandise through the Tampa Bay area and beyond. The club has been working on several new major corporate partnerships and is moving toward an advanced digital platform to connect the team and its fans starting with the development of a Rowdies mobile app.
The Rowdies kick-off the season Saturday against DC United on Saturday, February 9 at 8:00 p.m. The Rowdies will then play their second group match against Montreal Impact on Wednesday, February 13, while playing their last group match against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, February 16. All games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. All of the matches in Orlando will be broadcasted live on mlssoccer.com.
The Rowdies will take part in the I-4 Derby against Orlando City SC. The matches will be held on March 9th at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando and on March 30th at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg. Fans can purchase their tickets for the second leg of the I-4 Derby by clicking here. Tickets for the first match in Orlando can be purchased now by calling (855) ORL-CITY.
The reigning NASL Soccer Bowl Champions will start the 2013 NASL Spring Season by hosting the Carolina RailHawks in its 2013 home opener on Saturday, April 6 at Al Lang Stadium. For information on 2013 season tickets contact the front office at 813-287-1539 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Single-game tickets will go on sale at a later date.