Tampa Bay Rowdies Ready for Season Opener
“It’s a really picturesque area and it’s alive with lots of bars and restaurants. It’s a cool game-day atmosphere for people and for families,” said Rowdies President, General Manager and co-owner Andrew Nestor speaking to IMS in an interview in mid-March. “People have been really happy with the fan experience at Al Lang.”
Nestor was speaking about Progress Energy Field, or Al Lang Stadium as most of us know it, which sits in downtown St. Petersburg and just feet from the Tampa Bay waterfront.
Al Lang has been the home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies since the spring of 2011. But this year Rowdies fans will notice some improvements to the baseball field converted for soccer.
“The City has stepped up and made some improvements going into this season,” continued Nestor. “So the environment outside the stadium as you enter will be a lot better with a new fan zone and a new hospitality on-field as well.”
According to Rowdies spokesperson Jeff Kamis, the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission in conjunction with the Rowdies have been busy recently working on those improvements and getting ready for this weekend’s Rowdies opener.
The baseball infield section has now been replaced with grass which will stay there throughout the NASL season.
The office building that was adjacent to the box office and main entrance was removed, which opened up better sight lines to Bayshore Drive. The new open grass space will now serve as the home of the new Rowdies Fan Zone.
Inside the stadium fans will see new signage and the baseball netting behind home plate has come down. As well, the left field berm was leveled to create a field-level beer garden.
The Rowdies will host FC Edmonton for their opener this Saturday April 14 at 7:30 p.m. Both teams opened last week’s 2012 NASL season with a loss.
In the Rowdies opener in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the Islanders’ Jamie Cunningham was sent off after a hard foul in the 58th minute. But it was the Puerto Rico side that took control of the game, not Tampa Bay, when Nicholas Addlery scored about 10 minutes after his team’s sending off. Statistic reflected a very even game despite the man advantage for the Rowdies that happened just 13 minutes into the second half.
“Our passing should have been a lot quicker to enable us to take advantage of the extra man,” said Rowdies coach Ricky Hill. “The theme this week is that we need to focus better and execute better as a team,” said Hill. “We need to do our jobs better from one through 11 to ensure we don’t allow those type of goals again.”
Edmonton were also defeated by a ten-man team, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who had rookie Aly Hassan shown a straight red for a reckless challenge in the 40th minute. Despite playing up a man for 50 minutes it was the Strikers’ Andy Herron who found the back of the net in the 69th minute of play.
The Strikers dominated in nearly every statistic against the Eddies, who will be looking to make major improvements in their 2nd consecutive away game.
The two short-handed goals were the only two scored in the 4 NASL opening weekend games.