- Chris Green
Al Lang Stadium - Tampa Bay Rowdies
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.71
Al Lang Stadium 180 2nd Ave SE St Petersburg, FL 33701
Tampa Bay Rowdies website Al Lang Stadium website
Year Opened: 1947 Capacity: 7,227
Getting Rowdy in St. Pete
Taking in a Tampa Bay Rowdies game can be a bit of a surreal experience. Here in the middle of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, sits a former Minor League Baseball stadium that has been transformed into the home of a professional soccer team, where fans tailgate and march through the city center before singing the entire game in support of their favorite team. This is definitely not something you would expect to see in the south, and yet, it stands out as an incredible game day experience.
The fan support in St. Pete is high for the Rowdies, as proven by a referendum that was overwhelmingly approved by voters to renovate and fully transform Al Lang Stadium into a premiere MLS facility last year. While the team eventually fell short in their bid for an MLS franchise, the roots of the passion that could make the eventual move successful are easily visible here.
Food & Beverage 4
The best thing about the food at Al Lang Stadium is its affordability. A beer ranges from just $6 to $9, with soda and bottled water averaging $4. A burger is just $6 and a hot dog just $4, making the Rowdies insanely affordable compared to most professional sports teams. There is even a concessions stand open in the kids zone just for your child, which features snow cones, cotton candy, and ice cream. The quality of the food is also top notch, with everything made fresh in front of you.
The atmosphere is electric, to say the least. The entire game is filled with the songs and chants from Ralph’s Mob as they keep the excitement going. The fans explode with a roar whenever the Rowdies score a goal.
The surrounding area provides a beautiful backdrop for a night of soccer. And to make things even better, the fans are allowed onto the edge of the field after some games to get player autographs, take photos, and get an up-close look at the pitch at Al Lang Stadium.
In addition, the stadium’s big-screen scoreboard provides great replays of each important moment on the pitch, as well as stats and information about what is happening throughout the rest of the league. For those who are into social media, there are even special Snapchat filters for the games, helping fans connect and express their support in a host of ways.
The stadium itself is clean and easy to navigate, but the aged look of the stadium is hard to escape.
St. Petersburg is a growing city on the rise. It is a mix of vacationers, college students (USF has a campus literally steps away from the stadium), and professionals mixing with both city and suburban folks.
The neighborhood around Al Lang Stadium is evolving into a high quality of life location that features some of the best hole-in-the-wall eateries you can imagine, with traditional shopping and dining (CVS, Publix, and others are there to help meet your shopping needs).
Hotels and resorts vary from motels a few blocks away to the beautiful Hilton in the heart of downtown that puts you literally across the street from the main gate. Just steps away are a SpringHill Suites and a Hampton Inn for lodging options.
In addition, situated right on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the beach is right next door to the city, just a few minutes’ drive away. Often rated among the greatest beaches in the country, relaxation under the sun is easier than ever.
Not to be forgotten, the people are gracious, kind, and welcoming, making even the most travel-weary fan at the game feel like they’re right at home. For history buffs, a trip south to Fort De Soto State Park is a must.
The mere fact that there are seats in some parts of the stadium is funny, as some fans never sit in them for the whole game. Ralph’s Mob, the team’s official supporters club, stands the whole match, singing away for their favorite team and giving the opponents a hard time all the while. It is what one would imagine proper football to feel like as a fan, with all the passion, while remaining family-friendly.
Something you notice right away is the number of kids and families at the game. There are a ton of children watching the game with their parents, and it adds to the family-friendly atmosphere.
Getting to Al Lang Stadium is as easy as possible, with I-175 and I-375 branching off I-275, literally ending on the street in downtown St. Pete that leads to the main entrance. How much easier is it to find than that?
Parking is easy with various lots around Al Lang Stadium charging anywhere from $5 to $10. The Rowdies have their own officially sanctioned parking lots and garages around town to help fans find the best place to park. The parking is also plentiful, regardless of how busy the game is going to be, which makes for an easier time finding a spot for those who aren’t familiar with the area. The stadium itself isn’t very big, so getting to your seat is also easy once you’re inside.
Return on Investment 5
There are few sports experiences in Florida as rewarding and enjoyable as a Rowdies game. They really know how to put on a show, party it up, and have fun all at the same time.
The price of tickets can be as low as $26 for a seat at Al Lang Stadium, and kids’ tickets are just $10. This makes for one of the most affordable professional soccer experiences in the country, let alone the state of Florida. Add to this the affordability of food and drinks at the game, and a family of four can go to a game and get food, while still having money left over for souvenirs.
The Rowdies fan club, Ralph’s Mob, have a massive tailgate before each game, and then march down to the field. Their path takes them through the heart of St. Pete in a wide circle complete with drums, flags, and fans singing the songs of Rowdies nation.
The team also has a special beer named after them – Big Storm Brewing Company brews Tampa Bay Rowdies Lager, which is available for purchase at Al Lang Stadium.
Lucky fans can also win the “Best seats in the house” at Al Lang Stadium. These premium recliners are set up on a riser along the sideline, and offer an up-close view no other seat gives fans.
Something else Al Lang Stadium has that few other venues have is one of the best views in sports. On one side, the grandstand provides a great view of the towering buildings of downtown St. Petersburg. On the other, a view of beautiful Tampa Bay greets fans – it is hard to argue with the aesthetics of the facility’s surroundings.
Something few fans may realize is that Al Lang Stadium sits in the middle of the course layout for the annual IndyCar Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. During race weekend, the stadium doubles as a photographer’s stand during the race. When walking through the parking lot, you can see the rumble strips on the ground and the red lines painted on the roads around the stadium, that show where the barriers are laid out on race weekends.
Finally, each Rowdies fan gets the chance to win $1,000 in a contest the team conducts. The game day programs each contain a new code, and each Tuesday after the game the winning code is announced, with the fan holding that code taking home a cool stack of cash.
Tampa Bay may not have an MLS team like they once did, but the Rowdies’ USL program certainly provides the same level of excitement and fun.In the meantime, whether you’re looking to take the whole family or just go solo for a night of sports, the Rowdies will provide a safe, fun, and enjoyable event in a great central location for young people and families alike, in one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.