Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards and the City of St. Petersburg appear to be on a collision course.
Edwards is unhappy with condition of Al Lang Stadium, which he leases for professional soccer matches.
So far, the city is unsympathetic, and others are watching.
"We have the worst field in the country. In all of the league," Edwards told reporters Friday. "They're getting ready to send me a letter explaining...my whole franchise is at stake if I don't get a decent field to play on."
LINK: Letter from Rowdies to City of St. Petersburg
The written response from Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman: "It is unfortunate that Mr. Edwards would purchase the Rowdies only to threaten to move the team a few months later. Due diligence on his part certainly would have revealed the challenges of playing at an aging structure like Al Lang Stadium."
"I'm not threatening to move, I'm asking to stay," Edwards responded. "I'm begging the city to help me stay here."
The Rowdies’ owner enumerated several issues with the stadium, such as broken seats, locker room flooding and mold issues.
But it is the field that hosts the main battle: soccer fields are flat, baseball fields are mounded, and Edwards contends switching back and forth just doesn't work.
The end result is uneven, and potentially dangerous, especially if rainwater pools on the field.
"It's just a bad situation when you have more injuries on a playing field than you do on other fields," Edwards explained.
He has offered to make the field "laser flat" during a break between local matches next month, at a cost of about $130,000.
However, the proviso is no more baseball in an historic baseball facility.
"You can play all kinds field sports, you can play field hockey, lacrosse...football, you can play all those things on a field like that if you level it. The one thing you can't play there is baseball," Edwards admitted.
Ultimately, Edwards envisions a new soccer stadium on the Al Lang property. He also pointed to the difference between his preference and that of the Tampa Bay Rays, which want a new stadium, possibly in Tampa.
"I'm fighting to have a professional soccer team in St. Petersburg," Edwards said. "I'm doing everything I can to keep it here. If I can't, I'm going to have to go somewhere else with them."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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