It’s time for Tampa to get rowdy again. Err, “rowdie,” that is.
Fifteen years after the original team folded, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a professional soccer team from the United Soccer League’s first division, is set to begin play in 2010. The Rowdies will compete with 11 teams throughout North America, including two teams in Canada and one in Puerto Rico.
The Oracle talked to owner Andrew Nestor about scouting players, developing the team and getting the Rowdies their own stadium.
Oracle: Can you talk a little bit about the history of the team and how they came to be?
Andrew Nester: The Rowdies used to be a professional team back in the ’70s and ’80s. They played in the North American Soccer League. They were the main rivals of the New York Cosmos. They had a lot of iconic superstars playing here in Tampa and won a championship in 1975.
They folded in the early ’90s and then Major League Soccer started up and soccer had a revival in the U.S. Now it’s really stabilized as a major sport and with Tampa being a great market and having a lot of history with the name as well as fans, we decided to bring them back.
O: How are you guys working on promotions and drawing a fan base?
AN: It’s a long process. We’re a little ways out, but we got started recently by unveiling a new logo and launching a new Web site. The Web site, tbrowdies.com, has a lot of information on the team and video on current teams right now and old Rowdie games.
We’ll eventually have management blogs and as we start to sign players, we’ll get the players on to the public as well. Season tickets are actually available on the Web site.
On Thursday, we’re going to launch a merchandise store and just doing events and getting out in the community is a start.
Next year will be a much higher level of marketing. We’ll start hiring our general manager and front office, bringing in players, playing exhibition matches and bringing in some international teams to compete in the Tampa area.
O: How are you building the infrastructure of the team right now?
AN: We’ll hire a general manager in January or February of next year. We already have some coaching candidates and will make a hire in the spring of 2009. From there, we’ll have our scouting staff to start signing players.
O: Where do you look for players?
AN: The college draft is an avenue for us to get players. There are players who are already in the USL and MLS that might be free agents we can go sign. We can also sign up to six international players on our active roster so they’ll be a good mix of players.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for local talent as well. USF has a great team with a lot of prospects.
O: Can you talk a little bit about the new stadium that is being built?
AN: We’re still on track. We’re considering a few different sites right now. The stadium will hold 5,500 seats with 16 luxury boxes. It will have all the amenities of a professional team like your luxury boxes, a live media and a fan concourse to create a family atmosphere.
O: Is there anything else you would like to comment on as far as the team or getting the word out?
AN: The Web site is a good vehicle for viewers to contact us and give us comments or give us ideas for events they want to do locally.
The good thing about pro soccer is that it’s really accessible to the public. You don’t have a curtain that management hides behind. We definitely want to get out there in the community and the door is open for those who want to learn more about the team and the sport.