Tropicana Field was opened in 1990 as the Florida Suncoast Dome, to be the centerpiece of
the Tampa Bay region's effort to obtain a Major League Baseball franchise. For many years
after its opening the dome was used for just about everything but baseball, as the region's
efforts to secure a franchise went for naught on several occasions. In the meantime the
facility served as home to several other sporting events, most notably as the home of the
NHL Lightning where during this time the Thunderdome attracted audiences large enough
to shatter many of the NHL's all time attendance records. Also, the NCAA hosted its mens
basketball championships Final Four here in 1999.
Finally in the spring of 1995, the perseverance and dedication of the area's baseball
supporters was rewarded at last as the city of St. Petersburg was awarded an expansion
franchise. And by 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays began play in what is now known as
Outside the venue
Located near a resurgent downtown St. Petersburg, Tropicana Field is easily accessible
from the I-275 and once there, reasonably priced parking is plentiful. Away from the facility,
Tropicana Field's surroundings offer many options for the baseball fan before and after the
game. Ferg's and Extra Innings are just two of the sports oriented eateries that sit within a
short walk of the park on Central Avenue. Off in the distance in downtown St. Pete feel free
to visit the Baywalk, featuring Dan Marino's new restaurant or The Pier, adjacent to the
magnificently restored Vinoy on the waterfront. If you are headed straight for "The Trop"
make sure you walk towards the centerfield entrance via the Florida Power Walk, a palm
tree lined path tiled with a wonderful multi colored mosaic...better to see this after dark as it
is lit up in the most splendid array of lights!!!
When it was learned that Major League Baseball was coming to Tampa Bay, this venue
underwent a multimillion dollar renovation to upgrade the facility to more modern
standards, most notably concerning the widening of the concourses and the addition of
many of the amenities found in the newer facilities. The result here is the mishmash of old
and new, and as in many other similar renovations we have seen the mix produces a
somewhat mediocre look. However that being said, there are options aplenty for the fan in
the Trop's concourses and rank amongst the most diverse that we've seen and help to
make this park a great experience.
Similar to Turner Field in Atlanta, the main entrance and plaza area is found by entering
through the center field gate. Like their expansion counterparts at Bank One Ballpark, the
gate is in the form of a rotunda. The one found here at Tropicana Field is a bit understated
by comparison, with the banners of the American League teams hanging from balconies that
look over the entrance. Also in this rotunda is a sculpture of a school of rays swimming in a
group and a Fans hall of fame.
In the outfield concourse is where many of the outstanding features of the Trop's walkways
are located. Immediately to the right of the rotunda is the main merchandise shop with two
floors worth of Rays souvenirs and apparel. Located close by on Center Field Street is a
brew house, all this amidst an array of concession stands unique to the area. Hence the
name aptly given to this area is "The Taste of Tampa Bay" The roadtrippers highly suggest
the Cuban sandwiches here...superb!!! For the upscale diner, there is the Batter's Eye
restaurant overlooking the field from dead center - be careful if you are sitting at a window
table, as a few balls have been known to crack the glass separating baseball from diner!!!
Hunger pangs haven't whetted the urge for a smoke??? Then spend time at the Cuesta
Rey Cigar Bar, complete with overstuffed chairs, an outdoor patio with a splendid skyline
view, and a billiard room - not bad. Kids! Want something else to do besides having your
face painted or throw a 45 MPH curveball, how about rock climbing at the Mountain Dew
Challenge Wall!!! We don't remember seeing that anywhere else.
Also not to be missed are the murals adorning the infield concourse, with scenes of fans
cheering the action on the field of play and what appears to be an player from a different
era being tagged out at third by a Devil Ray. A large video board hangs high in this
concourse, with other monitors keeping track of other events around the country.
A view from the seats at the Trop is one of the most unique in all of baseball for
positive and negative reasons. On the good side is that it is not some sort of retro-classic
ballpark of which we have seen about five or six too many. No kelly green seats (though
that would work here as that is the team's dominant uniform color.) No hand operated out
of town scoreboard, or replica Green Monster wall or any other overly-quirky ballpark
design in that vein. Seems like the slogan for Tropicana Field could easily be "Not Camden
Yards and PROUD OF IT!!!" However there are some flaws with the view here and most
pertain to the roof and its network of cables and catwalks that support it. While we have
seen this design in place at the Georgia Dome, here at the Trop, the support system hangs
so low that it actually obstructs the view of some of the seats here and it truly takes away
from the "ballpark feel" of the place, so to speak.
Many other items of note here as the Rays have a message board to the left of center field
which is solely for messages pertaining to the Rays presence in the community. Also, there
is a small second deck in left field known as "The Beach" generally reserved for group
Suites and club seating are located on the 200 Diamond Club Level, and here one can find
carving stations, a wine cellar, and other upscale dining facilities. The club concourse runs
from foul pole to foul pole and is restricted to club seat holders.
The Rays are an expansion franchise, now completing their fourth season without any hint
of a contender. With that in mind one would have a hard time imagining any kind of banner
of significance hanging here, But then again in this recent era of expansion, teams don't
need much of an excuse to cheapen the meaning of a retired number. Here in Tampa, all
you have to do is be a hometown boy who reaches a milestone in a D-Rays uniform and
SHA-ZAM!! Wade Boggs' #12 hangs for eternity...bleccchh!!! Fred McGriff and Dwight
Gooden can't be too far behind, can they???
Runs, Hits, Errors
Hit - RAYS WIN! RAYS WIN! After the Rays 5-2 win over the Jays (and for any other home win)
the roof of the Trop is lit up in an orange hue. It was lit up during the entire time we were in
the area as the Rays were in the midst of their biggest winning streak of the season.
GRAND SLAM- To the Devil Rays organization for making our stop the most memorable one
of all!!! Thank you go to many!!! To Debbie Brooks, Merchandise Manager - It was our chance
meeting with "D-Rays Deb" at the Rays caravan in Ybor City during Super Bowl week that
got the ball rolling leading up to the events of this day. To Jose Tavarez, Director of Guest
Services, who treated us to the best seats in the park and who surprised us with a pair of
lineup sheets to be read by us on the field!!! To Vince Naimoli, the godfather of Major
League Baseball in Tampa Bay, who took a few moments of his time to chat with us on the
field and pose for a picture. And THANK YOU to every one else who made this day happen
for us, we bleed Rays green from here on out!!!
OK, enough with the mushiness, here's the deal on the Trop. It is a nice place that doesn't
deserve anywhere near the grief it gets from ballpark enthusiasts nationwide, many of
whom haven't been here in person. On the nice side, this is a baseball park that has all that
you would tend to see in a modern facility as far as amenities go and more. On the other
hand, it is a renovated building and usually that doesn't have the ambience that we have
seen in similar facilities. Plus - those catwalks... yikes!!!! Who thought that one up!!
Bottom line- this place settles in somewhere in middle of the pack. But make no mistake,
the Pinellas Suncoast is one of the best vacation destinations in the country, and a day at
the Trop can make your experience here complete. The Devil Rays front office has put
together their product the right way --- now put a contending team on the field and get the
big crowds back in the stands, and this ballpark has all the potential of being one of
baseball's great places.
Food and team store 8
Scoreboard and electronics 6
Fan support 3
Location and neighborhood 6
Banners and history 2
In game entertainment 7
Concourses/fan comfort 5
Bonus: USRT Red Carpet treatment 4; Cigar Bar 1; Orange lit roof 1
Blue Jays at