- Lloyd Brown
Tropicana Field - Tampa Bay Rays
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Tropicana Field 1 Tropicana Dr St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Year Opened: 1990
Swinging with the Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana Field are often seen as one of the less popular outposts in the MLB. We feel like it is best not to judge a book by its cover, however. The stadium exterior is not inviting at all, as it is a concrete shell with little or no ornamentation. To some extent, this is to protect the stadium from the hurricanes that the region experiences frequently.
Unfortunately, it was built before the technology was available to have a retractable roof. It is the only stadium in the MLB with a fixed roof, The team is looked at as one of the teams with the lowest payrolls in the league. This is true, but the Rays also have one of the most competitive teams in the Eastern Division of the American League. They typically earn a wild card spot in the playoffs regularly.
Once inside the ballpark, we find that the Tampa Rays staff does everything possible to ensure that you have an enjoyable experience at the game. The park does have a better-than-average concessions program, and there are some unique activities available over and above the game itself to keep you and your family entertained. You also need to remember that there are no seats where you must deal with the sun in your eyes or where you must deal with the hot and humid weather Tampa experiences in the summer.
Food & Beverage 4
Tropicana Field offers a better-than-average food and beverage program. Some concession stands are set up on the concourses, while others are set up in food halls off of the concourse. of the stadium. The first and third base food halls will mirror the same food items, so you will be able to find your favorite food close by.
Bird and Batter feature a menu filled with chicken delicacies, including chicken sandwiches and tenders.
Pacific Counter offers an exotic menu that includes sushi bowls, seaweed salads, and spam musubi. Tampa is also known for its Cuban sandwiches, which are found at the Cubanos stand in section 121. The Budweiser Porch in center field is home to even more concessions including RumFish, which offers mahi mahi fish tacos and firecracker shrimp.
If you prefer sit-down dining, two restaurants in Tropicana Field will allow you in hours before the gates open. The Outfielder Bar and Grill and Baseball and Rec offer great food and allow you to beat the crowds by parking early at the stadium. You still would need to wait 90 minutes before the first pitch to get to your seats in the ballpark.
The widest selection of beers in Tropicana Field can be found at the Craft Beer Corner at Section 136 or the Coppertail Brewery at Sections 113 and 122.
Note: Tropicana Field is one of the few MLB ballparks that allows you to bring in food or water. Food must be an individual serving, wrapped, bagged, or contained in a soft-sided container that meets bag requirements. Bottled water must still be sealed and be less than one liter. If you have children with you, you can bring in one sealed juice container per child.
Once you’ve entered the seating bowl, it may take you a few minutes to get used to the interior of Tropicana Field. The roof is very high, but below it are several suspension wires and steel girder walkways. It is important to know that these areas are considered “in play”, so a ball that bounces off of one of these areas can be caught for an out or can result in an inside-of-the-park home run if the team in the field is delayed long enough in playing the active ball.
The concourses at Tropicana Field are narrow and not open to the field. They can get very congested both before a game and during breaks in the action. Another awkward feature of Tropicana Field is the concourse, which goes 360 degrees around the stadium but requires you to go down a flight of stairs once you reach the outfield as the concourse drops one floor below the rest of the walkway.
One thing you need to be aware of when finding your seats at Tropicana Field is the numbering system for the sections inside of the ballpark. The sections do not run consecutively. Even-numbered sections are to the east of home plate, and odd-numbered sections run to the west of home plate. This was very confusing for a first-time visitor.
The Rays seldom open the upper-level seating area in the Tropicana Dome due to low attendance at games. While this means that all available seats are close to the action, it detracts from the atmosphere at the games.
There are several things to do before and after a Rays game. The Salvador Dali Museum offers a look at the work of the eccentric artist and his fascinating creations. A second attraction located close to Tropicana Field is the Florida Aquarium. It allows you to meet more of the Rays family and many other sea creatures.
You won’t have to go far to find food and drink after a Rays game. The Green Bench Brewing Company is right next door. The Central Avenue District is also nearby and is home to many bars, breweries, and restaurants.
It is no secret that Tropicana Field and the Rays are having a difficult time filling the seats, despite having a very competitive team. The published capacity of the stadium is 42,735, but that includes the 300 level of the stadium, which is usually covered by a tarp and is unoccupied for all but a few games or when the Rays are in the playoffs. The capacity then drops to 25,000, making Tropicana Field the smallest stadium in the MLB by capacity.
Many people point to the location and design of the stadium as reasons for the lack of support. The stadium is more than 20 miles from the city limits of Tampa, and drivers have only one route they can take to the stadium due to Tampa Bay.
A second issue has to do with the allegiances of the fans in the Tampa area. A large segment of the baseball fans in the Tampa/St. Pete area is retirees who moved to the area and bring their allegiance to the teams located where they lived for most of their lives. Other fans have allegiances to teams based in their area during spring training.
Tampa is home to the Yankee's spring training, and when the team comes to Tampa in the regular season, it often results in more Yankees fans in the building than Rays fans. The Red Sox are based in nearby Ft. Myers, and they also bring a large fan base to outnumber the locals when they play at Tropicana Field.
Finally, the Rays face a great deal of competition in drawing fans to games. They must compete with both the Buccaneers and the Lightning for the local sports dollar. Both of those teams have won multiple championships in their sport/ played in their sport’s championship games.
A little geography lesson is necessary when trying to get to a Rays game. Despite the team name, Tropicana Field is located in downtown St. Petersburg rather than downtown Tampa. Traffic can be a bear getting around Tampa Bay in the evenings, so allow plenty of travel time to the stadium.
Once you get to Tropicana, we find the parking situation to be very easy. The lots have plenty of space for the typical attendance at Rays games. Others find the best way to get to and from the stadium is by using one of the rideshare services. Drivers are widely available in the area, so the wait for a ride is usually very short.
Another option for visiting fans in the St. Petersburg area is to check and see if your St. Pete hotel offers a shuttle to and from the games, as many hotels/motels do offer this service. Often the hotel will have tickets available for games as a service for their guests. The second option is to take public transit to a game. The PTSA bus system that serves St. Petersburg has a Route 15 bus that does have a stop at Tropicana Field.
The parking lots at Tropicana Field open four hours before the first pitch. Tailgating is permitted and even encouraged. No charcoal grills are allowed. No access to the interior of the ballpark is allowed 90 minutes before the first pitch. At that point, you may enter the ballpark through any of the venue’s six main gates.
We have already addressed the issues with the crowded and narrow concourses once you are inside the Tropicana Dome in the Atmosphere section of this review.
Return on Investment 3
Let’s start with the best news. Tickets to Rays games are amongst the cheapest in MLB. The average ticket price for the Rays is $26. This places it as the second lowest ticket price in the MLB after Oakland. You’ll also find that there are good views of the action from almost anywhere in the ballpark. The furthest seats from the field are at the 300 level, which is not even open unless the lower levels are sold out.
You do need to know that some games are “premium priced” and have more expensive tickets. These would include games against their division foes… the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. (The Yankees spring training facility is in Tampa, and they have many local fans as a result).
Parking at Tropicana Field is $15. The concessions program offers a wide menu of items at reasonable prices.
Tropicana Field offers a unique experience while you are at the game at no extra charge. The Ray Touch Tank is near section 150 in right-center field. The 10,000-gallon water tank features several cownose rays. You may safely touch them, as their barbs have been removed. Unfortunately, the Ted Williams Hitter’s Hall of Fame formerly at Tropicana Field has closed permanently.
Rays Tuch Tank at Tropicana Field, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Another activity at Tropicana Field that is kid friendly is a visit to Raymond’s Tree House in right field. Raymond is the team mascot who is very friendly. He is a blue furry creature (the team says he is a “sea dog”…we’ll take their word on that) His tree house is a playground that offers several games and other activities.
Make sure to visit the Tree House during the fifth inning, as Raymond will personally greet you and he will pose for a picture with your child. Adults might want to sneak over to the nearby photo booth, where you can pose for your baseball trading card!
Hurricane Ian did major damage to the Rays spring training stadium and facilities in Port Charlotte, Florida. This forced Tropicana Stadium into emergency use as the site for the Rays entire home schedule of Grapefruit League games.
If the Rays game does not completely satisfy your baseball itch, consider attending one of the nearby Florida State League games nearby. The stadiums in Dunedin, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Ft. Myers are all close to Tropicana Field. In the spring these stadiums serve as the spring training home of the Blue Jays, Phillies, Yankees, Twins, and Red Sox. Once the regular season begins, these stadiums are turned over to their minor league affiliates. It is a great way to see the stars of tomorrow.
It is no secret that the home of the Rays is seen as the ugly duckling of MLB stadiums. Its’ exterior has no appeal and its support system of wires and beams have resulted in a set of ground rules to cover plays where the ball has hit a beam or support wire. On the other hand, the Rays are a very talented team and frequently go to the playoffs.
The members of the Rays gameday staff in the stands are also cited by many visitors to the Bay area as being extremely helpful and going out of their way to ensure that fans have a good time at Tropicana Field. Here’s hoping that the Rays can finally negotiate a deal for a new stadium located on the Tampa side of the Bay, as the team’s lease with Tropicana Field expires in 2028.