by JAKE NUTTING
In an unlikely turn of events, the Tampa Bay Rowdies will be returning to the Hillsborough County site where the reincarnated club first envisioned building a soccer specific stadium. More specifically, it will be the club’s newly launched reserve squad, Rowdies 2, in the NPSL that will be hosting matches on the plot of land in Town ‘n’ Country at the intersection of Waters Avenue and Benjamin Road.
The development was first spotted by Rowdies supporter Adam Martin, who noticed that the NPSL’s website listed the new soccer complex at the site as the home venue of Rowdies 2. Following up on that, the Unused Substitutes have confirmed with the Rowdies front office that the complex will serve as the primary home and training ground of Rowdies 2.
However, it is not guaranteed that the complex will host all five of the scheduled home matches. Rowdies COO Lee Cohen noted that most of the the home fixtures have been scheduled for Wednesdays, leaving the club with the option of moving some matches to another site if they choose to.
Cohen also disclosed that the club expects to announce a head coach for Rowdies 2 sometime next week.
Now dubbed the Waters Soccer Complex, the plot of land is owned by Rowdies minority owner David Laxer and once served as the produce farm for Laxer’s family restaurant Bern’s Steakhouse. The original plan for the site back in 2009, before the modern Rowdies had even kicked a ball, was for the club to privately finance a 5,000 seat stadium. The Rowdies eventually withdrew that proposal, though, amid mounting pressure from local residents over noise pollution and traffic concerns.
In April 2013, it was revealed that Laxer (then the majority owner of the Rowdies) had sold a small portion of the plot to developers to build a Wawa gas station and he planned on converting the rest into a training facility for the Rowdies. The Wawa station and soccer field were eventually completed, but the notion of the Rowdies training there was lost in the shuffle when Bill Edwards bought controlling interest in the Rowdies in December of that year.
Having Rowdies 2 set up shop at Waters Soccer Complex in their inaugural season is a shrewd decision by the Rowdies front office. With a proper marketing push, the move could allow the Rowdies to increase their profile in Hillsborough and win new supporters. The location of the complex more convenient to the large youth soccer demographic in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando that may not have checked out a Rowdies match in St Petersburg yet.
Rowdies 2 Schedule
Further examination of the NPSL’s site revealed that the full 10-game schedule for Rowdies 2 has also been posted. The reserve squad will play its first home match against Storm FC on Saturday, May 21 at 3 p.m. The first team will be in New York to play the Cosmos the following day.
In positive news for supporters, Rowdies 2 will likely fill a large gap in the senior team’s schedule during the break between the NASL’s Spring and Fall Seasons. Following that May 21 home opener, the next three Rowdies 2 home matches will be played during the NASL’s break. The fifth and final home match for Rowdies 2 is on a Wednesday, so there’s also no conflict with the senior team’s schedule.
- Sunday, May 8 @ Miami United SC (Millander park, 7 pm)
- Sunday May 15 @ Jacksonville Armada U-23s (Patton Park Stadium, 5 pm)
- Saturday May 21 host Storm FC (Waters Soccer Complex, 3 pm)
- Thursday June 2 @ Fort Lauderdale Strikers U-23s (Lockhart Stadium, 7 pm)
- Sunday June 5 @ Storm FC (Pembroke Pines Charter High School, 6 pm)
- Saturday June 11 @ to Kraze United (Trinity Preparatory School, 6 pm)
- Wednesday June 15 host Weston FC (Waters Soccer Complex, 3 pm)
- Saturday June 25 host Jacksonville Armada U-23s (Waters Soccer Complex, 3 pm)
- Wednesday June 29 host Miami Fusion FC (Waters Soccer Complex, 3 pm)
- Wednesday July 6 host Kraze United (Waters Soccer Complex, 7 pm)
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