This morning, without so much as a how-do-you-do, Shawn Francis of The Offside Rules dropped this bombshell he uncovered at a website called “Destination Soccer”: A group in Tampa has plans in the works to build a 28,800-seat (expandable to 40,000), retractable roof soccer stadium at an estimated cost of $400 million in the heart of downtown. Read that sentence again if you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around the concept. $400 million? On a soccer stadium? In the United States of America? Tampa doesn’t even have an MLS team.
Of course, to justify a $400 million stadium, Tampa will have to have an MLS team. The group behind the stadium plan, which includes the owners of the USL-PRO (nominal third division) VSI Tampa Bay Flames and their investors PRI Development Partners, have the stated aim of attracting one at some point in the near future.
In the meantime, they’ll launch the Tampa Bay Flames in a temporary, modular 6-8,000 seat stadium.
The main stadium plan is a stunner, and almost impossible to imagine as a reality (nearly as impossible as the crazy plans to refurbish the Pontiac Silverdome). There are no $400 million soccer stadiums in the U.S., unless you count Century Link Field in Seattle, which no one does (mostly because it was built with soccer in mind but with the NFL’s Seahawks as the primary tenant). There are certainly no retractable roof soccer stadiums in the U.S. Outside of the likely New York City franchise, for whom the league is doing all of the work, no group is proposing such a ambitious stadium project. The kicker might be that while several cities have been mentioned as possible MLS expansions cities in the last year, including another Florida locale, Orlanda, Tampa has been the subject of zero rumor. Zero, as in none.
Thus, my theory is that the website announcing the stadium (and other super-ambitious projects) is a hoax perpetrated by Shawn Francis. I see what you’re doing, Shawn. If I checked the domain registry for that site, will it come back with your name? I’m too lazy to actually look, so I’m going to assume the answer is “yes.”
Crafty, very crafty. $400 million retractable roof soccer stadium…you almost had me.
To read up on all of the amazingness VSI has planned for Tampa pro soccer, go here.