ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (October 2, 2018) — Bill Edwards announced Tuesday morning that he will sell the Tampa Bay Rowdies to the Tampa Bay Rays at a packed press conference in the Mahaffey Theater that included comments from Edwards and Rays President Matt Silverman.
Many fans have questions and not all of the answers are available at this time, but here are some of the biggest questions that were answered Tuesday.
Why did Bill Edwards sell the Rowdies to the Rays?
Bill Edwards: “There are a lot of people that have courted us, but I wanted to keep it local, I wanted to keep it in town and I wanted to keep it here. I’ve known Matt (Silverman) since I’ve owned the team and I’ve banged into him in a lot of different places at speeches and roundtables and all this stuff and I realized he’s a neighbor. He’s been here for 13 years. He’s the boots on the ground for the Rays in this town and he’s one of us. He’s a local. I’ve gotten to realize that he’s a good, honest guy that’s going to do the right thing. We’ve had a lot of honest conversations about how the Rowdies will end up at the end of the day and we both agreed on the things we had to.”
What does it mean for the Rowdies and Rays to share ownership?
Bill Edwards: “This is a great thing for St. Petersburg to have a major league sports team own the other sports team in town and be able to have them within miles of one another. I think it’s good for the city. I think it’s good for the people.”
How do the Rays feel about the history and importance of the Rowdies?
Matt Silverman: “We’re all proud that Bill has chosen to pass the Rowdies torch to us and we’re excited to build upon the strong foundation he has forged to build the Rowdies brand and soccer in general throughout Tampa Bay. The Rowdies hold a special place in the history of Tampa Bay sports and it’s a brand with deep roots in our region. The Rowdies have always been Tampa Bay’s soccer team and they are especially proud to be the soccer team of St. Petersburg. We can’t think of a more fitting home for the Rowdies than Al Lang, especially with the investments that Bill has made into the historic stadium. It’s a wonderful public facility. The soccer environment there is electric and the fandom is intense. We’re eager to get to know Ralph’s Mob and we’re eager to engage with the Rowdies fans and supporters on how to continue the exciting trajectory that this franchise is on.”
Why did the Rays want to purchase the Rowdies?
Matt Silverman: “For fourteen years, we have proudly owned and operated the Tampa Bay Rays. Our future has never been brighter and our commitment to the Tampa Bay area has never been stronger. The Rowdies are a new dimension to that commitment. This is an investment in the Rowdies as well as a significant investment in Downtown St. Pete. We expect the Rowdies will continue to be a large part of the renaissance of downtown and we are uniquely positioned to help fuel this team’s growth.”
What does this mean for the Rays’ plans to build a new stadium in Ybor City?
Matt Silverman: “Some obvious questions are being asked, especially about what this might mean for our Ybor ballpark plans. The answer is simple: There is no connection. The Rays are committed to our ballpark plan in Ybor and we’re committed to the Rowdies playing at Al Lang.”
What will the organization look like with teams competing in two different sports now?
Matt Silverman: “The Rowdies and Rays are two proud organizations, each with unique cultures that we will nourish. They’re going to be operated as separate organizations. Certainly, there will be some efficiencies and some opportunities for cross promotion and cross learning, but remaining separate is integral to the authenticity and the success of each brand. We have a great respect for the Rowdies brand, what it have meant for more than four decades in Tampa Bay and what it means today as a member of the United Soccer League.”
Will the Rowdies continue to play at Al Lang Stadium after this season?
Bill Edwards: “In our agreement, it requires that the Rays keep the Rowdies in town for at least five years at (Al Lang). I made that clear, as part of our agreement, that the Rowdies would be here. I put a lot of money and time into the Rowdies, and they’re not going anywhere.”