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Renovations begin at future riverfront home of the Tampa Bay Sun women's soccer team

The $6 million in stadium improvements at Tampa's Blake High School are for the new pro team, whose league was just granted top-tier status by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

A ceremonial kickoff event at Blake High School in downtown Tampa celebrated the start of a $6 million renovation of the school’s riverfront stadium — the future home of the Tampa Bay area’s new women’s professional soccer team.

The field, on the west bank of the Hillsborough River, was selected in October to be the home for the Tampa Bay Sun. The space will be shared between the Sun and Blake’s sports teams.

Monday's event came days after the USL Super League was approved for Division One status by the U.S. Soccer Federation. The league is now one of two top-tier women’s soccer leagues in the U.S., and the Sun are among the league’s inaugural eight teams.

The other Division One league is the National Women's Soccer League, which fields a team in Orlando.

Map of the nationwide teams for the USL Super League's inaugural season.
USL Super League
Map of the nationwide teams for the USL Super League's inaugural season.

The Sun are owned by Tampa real estate developer Darryl Shaw, restaurateur and former Tampa Bay Rowdies owner David Laxer, and tech executive Jeff Fox.

Former FIFA referee and TV analyst Christina Urkel has been named club president, and longtime USF women’s soccer coach Denise Schilte-Brown has been named head coach.

“You already see a beautiful stadium that's going to turn into even a greater stadium, that is at a professional standard level for not just the women athletes that are coming here into town, but as well as for the athletes here at Blake High School,” Unkel said.

Blake High School girls’ soccer team launched the partnership with the kick of a commemorative soccer ball later presented to school principal Valerie Newton.

Newton said the collaboration will significantly enhance student life on campus.

“We look forward to this mutually beneficial partnership that we are embarking upon today,” Newton said. “This investment will have a tremendous positive impact for our student athletes and fans. And it will also contribute to student learning and improve our community as a whole.”

In attendance were key stakeholders and members of the Hillsborough County School Board, who later toured the grounds to learn more about the project's scope.

Some of the most notable upgrades to the waterfront stadium include:

  • Tripling current seating capacity from 1,500 to 5,000. 
  • Upgraded locker room facilities.  
  • Installation of FIFA-approved turf. 
  • New family activity zones. 

The renovations are scheduled to start later this month and are expected to be complete in time for the season’s projected start this August.

Rendering of planned enhancements for Blake High's riverfront stadium.
USL Super League
Rendering of planned enhancements for Blake High's riverfront stadium.

Ari Herrera is the WUSF Stephen Noble Digital News intern for spring of 2024.
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