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New Major League Soccer stadium in Tampa Bay?

Nov 29, 2012, 11:35 AM EDT


CARSON, Calif. – The stadium-related, out-of-nowhere story from Tampa Bay yesterday will need much untangling.

Luckily, almost everybody who has anything to do with domestic soccer is in Southern California this week, site of Saturday’s MLS Cup final; we’ll have our untangling tools at the ready.

Here’s what we know about yesterday’s whopper, a news story from Tampa that says a group (with more money than it knows what to do with, apparently) is about to spend $400 million on a soccer stadium, minus any promises of an MLS franchise.

  • Hopes are for a 28,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof. (It does tend to get wet in Tampa, so that ability to shut the lid would be nice.)
  • The stadium to open in March of 2016.
  • The money is out of England, from VisionPro Sports Institute Holdings, which has heavy business and political connections to Tampa Bay.
  • The timing couldn’t be better; MLS commissioner Don Garber reiterated Major League Soccer’s desire to find its way into the Southeast, and also reinforced the league’s desire to avoid ill fitted venues (i.e., big football stadiums in most cases.)

There are three sticky points here:

One is the commitment for 19-team MLS to make a second New York franchise No. 20. That’s still targeted for around 2016, and most of the MLS expansion energy will presumably remain pointed in that direction.

The other is finding an owner. As I’ve mentioned several times before, nothing happens until a city has the right owner to go with the right stadium plan.

(MORE: Slicing through the clutter of MLS expansion talk)

Finally, there is a matter of history. Tampa Bay had an MLS team before, the short-lived Mutiny (pictured). That lasted five seasons, folding in 2001 as MLS contracted to 10 teams (and came very, very close to going away altogether.)

That was a very different time in MLS. Tampa was league owned and operated, and surely suffered from that status. Still, that could create an awkward obstacle if competition gets fierce with a place like Orlando, where officials are eager to get past the MLS expansion velvet ropes.

(MORE: Tampa Bay’s potential competition in Florida, Orlando)

  1. mvktr2 - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    28K, $400,000,000
    That’s some cashola! What’s the end from the city?

    Tampa ties or not, why not make a go at NY2 with that type of money. NY2 done properly is going to be the most lucrative team in the league. As great as all the soccer specific stadiums are most are in suburbs, some in far-off suburbs (I’m looking at you Frisco). Planting a new venue with proper marketing in the multicultural mecca of NYC, especially if it gets Cosmos branding, is going to be HUGE.

    • wesbadia - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:08 PM

      “Why not make a go at NY2 with that type of money?”

      Because VSI owns teams in USL’s PDL, W-league, and Super Y 20. Their USL-PRO team will begin play in 2013. They have an extensive academy in Brandon, FL. I’ve said this elsewhere, but my take is VSI is looking to establish a Euro-style organization in Tampa and the final peg in doing that would be to have a complete complex for their entire entity. VSI is committed to Tampa. NY needs to find deep pockets elsewhere.

      $400M is a pipe dream, though. A retractable roof and $250M sports medical facility is out of the question. So is a 29K capacity stadium. Aiming for a price of $100-150M and a capacity of ~15K would be more realistic. Plus there’s the concern of the local governments wanting to grant a foreign-owned company public funds. I don’t have a doubt this will get built, but not in the proposed fashion.

  2. the0verheadwire - Nov 29, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    This is a horrible idea. The area can’t get 28k to a Rays game, even when they were beating up on the Yankees and Red Sox. The Buccaneers have attendance issues as well. Tampa, and Florida in general is a horrible place for sports growth.

    Rays Attendance – 19K Per game – LAST in League

    Buccaneers Attendance – 54k Per game – LAST in League

  3. mmancini99 - Nov 29, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Well, NY2, Orlando and Tampa become teams 20, 21, 22. That solves your NY, Southeast, odd number and Florida derby issues all at once! Brilliant.

    Realistically though, this is probably the worst of the three Florida markets.

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