Rowdies stadium referendum passes handily in St. Pete — by, like, a lot

As in, nearly nine out of ten people were for it.

Well, that was easy.

Shortly after polls closed on Tuesday night, the tally showed that some 87 percent of the more than 28,000 people who cast a ballot in St. Petersburg's Al Lang Stadium referendum were all for the proposal.

The proposal essentially lays groundwork on the city's end for a privately funded renovation of the stadium by Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, a project that could land the team in Major League Soccer if all goes well.

Former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, who works for Edwards, was in many ways the face of of the pro-referendum campaign. (And he may be launching another mayoral bid any day now that the referendum is over.)

He said during a Tiger Bay forum that MLS, in its search for expansion teams, has criteria that fit the Tampa Bay area particularly well, especially if the stadium site were to be built out to an 18,000-seat capacity.

Of the dozen or so teams with which the Rowdies are competing to become an expansion team, they also have to be within a major media market. Tampa Bay is the 11th biggest media market in the country, Baker said in late April, “and the top 10 media markets in the country are already in MLS.”

"So that puts us in a good spot,” he said.

Unlike past dialogue about waterfront attractions in St. Pete, the referendum was surprisingly not contentious aside from a few residents in nearby condos who were worried about noise from special events, namely concerts.

However, the vote may have indirect political implications, especially in the St. Pete mayor's race. It's a win for Baker, who is said to be poised to launch a run against incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman. The campaign for the stadium gave Baker a bit of media time, which he spent advocating for something to which few people were opposed.

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