ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Multiple sources who have spoken with Rays president Brian Auld confirm to FOX 13 that the team will announce on Tuesday that they are buying the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team, along with their home field of Al Lang Stadium.
Speculation runs the gamut: Could they use it for a new stadium for themselves? For spring training? To leverage Hillsborough taxpayers into paying more for an Ybor site? Could they even sell the property to help fund a new stadium?
But St. Petersburg city councilors who were briefed by the Rays are taking the purchase at face value.
"The ownership had a great interest in soccer," said councilor Gina Driscoll, whose district encompasses the stadium land. "A lot of owners out there own different sports teams, that it is a great way for them to diversify."
This is all coming as the team is now three months away from its deadline to finish its search in Hillsborough. The team needs to piece together $900-million for the Ybor site.
Ron Christaldi is leading the effort to raise corporate commitments to show both the team and public officials investments in the Ybor site wouldn't go to waste.
"We have literally raised millions of dollars of new corporate funding for the Rays over time. We are very excited and remain very bullish on everything," he said. (We have) solid commitments."
Christaldi said the purchase of Al Lang and the Rowdies should comfort Rays fans, in that it represents a doubling down by the team on the entire community.
"It lessens the likelihood that some out of state city is going to approach them and wow them off their feet and take them away," said Christaldi. "I am not aware of any of those discussions, but this seems to further eliminate those prospects."
Christaldi also said Auld told him the Rays are committed to keeping the Rowdies at Al Lang. The top member of the County Commission dealing with the Ybor plan, Ken Hagan, did not immediately respond to our request for comment on Tuesday's news conference.