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Tampa Bay Rowdies

Rowdies’ owner buys garage, restaurant with fans in mind

S – Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer fans will have a new place to park this spring and a new sports bar to meet before and after the games.

Team owner Bill Edwards said Monday he has purchased the McNulty Station parking garage and the former Midtown Sundries restaurant, which closed in November after 16 years. They are in the First Avenue and Second Street South block.

The five-floor garage gives soccer fans 500-plus badly needed parking spaces a block away from Al Lang Stadium, where the Rowdies play their home games, Edwards said. Meanwhile, he said he plans to reopen the 300-seat Midtown restaurant as a Rowdies-themed sports bar for soccer fans.

Edwards said he bought the properties on Friday in response to complaints by fans and season ticket holders about the lack of parking near Al Lang. He declined to disclose the purchase price.

“I bought some additional parking for season ticket holders and special guests,” Edwards said. “Last year several people said, ‘Gee, our biggest problem is finding a parking spot.’ ”

The parking will be reserved for the team on Saturday game nights, but open to the public the rest of the week. The Rowdies play 15 regular season games at Al Lang, which seats 7,600 people for soccer. They open their 2015 North American Soccer League season with a home game April 11.

The additions come as Edwards is in the final stages of renovating the long-time baseball stadium, including infrastructure improvements, upgrading the playing surface, and adding new player lockers and stadium seats in the team’s green and yellow colors.

Edwards and his Big3 Entertainment company entered a four-year deal with the city of St. Petersburg in October to operate the stadium and to make $1.5 million of improvements. His push to improve and to promote the Rowdies has led to speculation that he may try to move the team from the NASL to the top-tier Major League Soccer.

On Monday, Edwards said only: “It’s all part of the Rowdies, the NASL and building our fan base ... to bring even more folks to the park.”

Edwards also runs the city’s Mahaffey Theater through Big 3. And, as CEO of the Edwards Group, he opened the upscale Sundial St. Pete retail and dining complex in September at the former BayWalk site at 153 Second Ave. N..

On Monday, the complex’s newest tenant, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, held a steak-cutting opening ceremony with Edwards and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. It joins such venues as the Sea Salt and Locale Markets restaurants, Tommy Bahama, Chico’s and Muvico Theaters.

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