An Open Letter…

Dear Ralph’s Mob and all Rowdies Supporters,

I am a little disappointed by the lack of presence we, as supporters, have had for the team we love. Call it a malaise or whatever you like, but the energy level of the supporters feels as if it has fallen off considerably compared to the enthusiasm at the start of last year.

As it is well known now, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and St Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are pushing to include a referendum to extend the lease at Al Lang Stadium. This should be the first step in Bill Edwards’s desired expansion for the stadium as it would pave the way for securing financing for the project.

What is also now known is that the local media cannot be left alone to spread the word on this campaign. First there was Fox 13’s feature that twisted things to make it sound like the vote would be on $70 million in renovations and tied it to the failed Tampa Bay Rays stadium proposal at the Al Lang site years ago. Then on Thursday the Tampa Bay Times followed that report up with an article implying that any hopes of growth by the Rowdies are futile due to Orlando City owning the territorial rights to MLS in the Tampa Bay market. 

So, what can we do as supporters? There are the things that are obvious. Purchase season tickets, bring friends, fill the stadium. Show them there is a need to grow.

There are other things that are not so obvious, and this is where Ralph’s Mob should be leading the charge. I know they have contacts in the local media and with local officials who hold influence. Blitz them with letters in support. Plaster social media to start a movement. Engage with people. Press the club to participate in the conversation in a transparent environment. Be proactive. This may start to sound like political activism because, well, it has to be. 

Most of you will probably shrug this off. You’ll probably mutter about the owner and “one year plans” or some variation about a lack of vision going forward. Maybe you’ll say Edwards just wants to sell the team and is just making it more appealing. My response to that last contention is GOOD!

If extending the lease and expanding the stadium isn’t a vision for the future, if $70 million dollar plans to continue to solidify the roots of this team we all love in St. Petersburg, isn’t vision, I’m not sure what you’re looking for.

If all of this is a way for Bill Edwards to turn a profit and get out, I’m okay with that. If this bid for expansion is successful, despite whatever misgivings you have about the previous 2 years on the pitch, we will still have a foundation that a new owner wouldn’t have to expend energy or resources establishing. A foundation and revenue stream which is better than almost every team in North American Soccer League, and even better than some in MLS.

You won’t be alone. The Unused Substitutes pledge to join in and do our part to spread the word to the best of our abilities. And this is not a call to arms for blind support of anything and everything Mr. Edwards asks for. It’s still our duty to question and pressure the club when the situation call for it. We should always strive to ensure the Rowdies reflect the best interests of our community.

The Mob have a song titled “Call to Arms” in which they sing “…our call to arms, stand together and fight as one.” It is time for us to fight as one.