The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce March 14 luncheon featured a guest who’s trying to keep a lot of balls in the air: Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld, now pulling double-duty as vice chairman of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the St. Pete-based soccer club the Rays acquired in October from local entertainment and property magnate Bill Edwards.
The luncheon, held at Al Lang Field, the picturesque waterfront home of the Rowdies, was a chance for Auld to discuss immediate changes to the game-day experience and lay out the long-term vision he, principal owner Stu Sternberg and Matt Silverman, the Rays’ president of baseball operations, have for the United Soccer League franchise.
“Al Lang Field is the most beautiful sports venue on the face of the planet,” Auld says. “Not a lot of USL teams have the advantages that the Rowdies have here.”
Auld says concession prices will be lower at Rowdies matches this season, and the team will provide space for more local food trucks outside the stadium. The Rowdies will also take a page from the Rays’ playbook and have more bulk giveaways of souvenirs.
“Having two franchises gives us more opportunities to really dig in and create synergies,” Auld says. “The teams’ training staffs are giddy about sharing information.”
Speaking of training and conditioning — and making fans happier — the club successfully lobbied the USL to have its schedule front- and back-loaded with home matches, meaning it will play less often in St. Pete’s sweltering summer weather. There will be just one home match in July.
Under new ownership, the Rowdies will not, however, actively pursue promotion to Major League Soccer, an effort begun under Edwards. “We are making no calls to MLS this season,” Auld says, though he did not rule out a future push.
(This story has been updated to correct Brian Auld's official job title with the Rowdies.)