Tampa To Get New Pro Soccer Team, Stadium
A news conference unveiling the team is expected to be held within the next several days, spokesperson Lisa Brock said. Brock declined to confirm any details about the name of the new club, but it is expected to called the Rowdies, use the same green and gold colors for its uniform and draw some of the same management that were with the Mutiny.
The news comes a day after Hillsborough County Commissioners gave limited approval to building a $15 million soccer complex and stadium at a site yet to be determined. But Brock said there isn't necessarily a connection between the two announcements because her club's owners are looking to build their own stadium in northwest Tampa.
The USL's First Division (formerly the A League) is one notch below the nation's highest division, Major League Soccer, where the Mutiny played six seasons before folding in 2001. Currently, there are 11 clubs in the USL First Division playing a spring/summer schedule but one of them, the Seattle Sounders, is moving to MLS next season. The USL's offices are based in Tampa.
The typical operating budget for a First Division team is $1.2-$1.5 million, said Matt Weibe, the USL's senior director of franchise development. The franchise fee is currently $350,000 but increases to $750,000 on Aug. 15. A First Division club must also have a line of credit worth $500,000.
Tampa attorney Vincent Marchetti said he represents a group of private investors who want to build a soccer stadium in Hillsborough County. Brock said one of the investors is a local businessman while the remaining investors are from outside of the state. Marchetti said the ownership group is looking at more than one site and have already spent money on engineering and design.
"It is a group that has been pursuing a soccer stadium on a privately funded basis for some period of time and they've got a lot of resources in place," Marchetti said.
Marchetti said the stadium would seat between 6,000 and 7,000 fans with room for expansion. The USL has a minimum size requirement of 5,000, Weibe said. A USL First Division stadium recently opened in Montreal with seating for 13,000. Last year, the Rochester, N.Y., Rhinos moved into a new 11,000-seat stadium.
"Since Major League Soccer departed here, we've always felt at the USL First Division that Tampa would be an excellent market," Weibe said.
Construction of the stadium would not require any public funding, Marchetti said. He said permitting and construction would take about two years.
"There will be some potential for a public-private partnership here that I think would be a real benefit to the community," Marchetti said. "Those are to be determined."