Tropicana Field – Tampa Bay Rays
Rising above the palm trees of St. Petersburg, Florida is a relic of a bygone era. Tropicana Field was built two years before Camden Yards revolutionized stadium construction. Instead of a retractable roof, the dome of the Trop is made of white Teflon – not a great color for a baseball ceiling – and there are multiple layers of catwalks that routinely interfere with the game. Aside from this, and the turf that would look more at home in an antique shop, the sightlines are among the best in Major League Baseball and the Rays do a pretty good job at keeping the concourses colorful, friendly, and clean.
The city of St. Petersburg completed the Florida Suncoast Dome in 1990 with the hopes of drawing a Major League Baseball team to the area. It took five years for the MLB to award the city a team, and another three after that before the first pitch. The initial tenant was the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. In 1993, when the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning moved in, the stadium’s name was changed to the Thunder Dome. Two years later, the MLB awarded St. Petersburg with a team, the Devil Rays, and in 1996 the name of the stadium was changed yet again to Tropicana Field. 31 March 1998 marked opening day of the inaugural season. The Devil Rays lost that day 11-6 to the Detroit Tigers in front of a sellout crowd of 45,369. The capacity has since been reduced to 31,042.
Food & Beverage 5
Florida is known for its diverse and ethnic food, so why should Tropicana Field be any different? There are the obvious baseball choices: hot dogs, cheeseburgers, nachos, fries, and so on, but why stop there? This is Florida, live it up a bit! You can find the location of all of the food I am about to tell you about on the Rays’ website. To start with, there are two massive food courts on the ground level along the first and third base lines. Here is where you will find most of the food. They have everything from hot dogs and nachos to bottomless drinks – unfortunately only for non-alcoholic beverages – to Italian sausages, a wide variety of beer, wine, and whiskey, nearly every kind of barbecue imaginable, Cuban sandwiches, grouper, ice cream, burgers and more.
In center field, you will find the Everglades Brewhouse. This full-fledged restaurant and bar is a fan favorite and should not be missed. If you do miss it, don’t worry — there’s still the Taco Bus, a couple turkey carving stations, Ricky P’s serving up Po’ Boys, and a hot dog stand or two. There’s also a cigar bar out in center, if you’re in the mood.
As is the case with most stadiums, the higher you go, the more limited your food options are. This being said, the selection in the upper deck isn’t half bad. Along with the staples, you can still find Cubans and sausages out behind section 349 and an Everglades BBQ stand behind section 314.
The sightlines are terrific, the food is great, and the team has been good of late. However, going to a game at the Trop feels like watching a game at a retirement center. Half of the upper deck has long since been covered with massive blue tarps, because the Rays simply cannot sell the tickets. When teams like the Yankees and Red Sox come to town, you will hear chants of, “Let’s Go Yankees!” or “Let’s Go Red Sox!” more than you will hear “Let’s Go Rays!” To be fair, the majority of the fans on an average night have long since graduated college. The stadium is outdated and located too far from Tampa to consistently attract younger, more energetic fans. The fans that do show up might watch the first couple innings, but it’s never a good sign when you can hear your voice echoing off the stadium walls in the bottom of the fourth. The Rays do try to liven up the atmosphere. Raymond, the mascot, can be seen throughout the game waving flags or venturing throughout the seating bowl taking pictures with the kids. There’s even an arcade behind section 133.
On a more positive note, the lack of atmosphere means that it is not very hostile. You might get a dirty look or two if you wear a Yankees jersey, but that’s about it.
Just a short walk via the pedestrian walkway outside Gate 7 is an area known as the Grand Central District. Getting its name from Central Avenue, this strip is lined with all sorts of local shops and food. Ferg’s Sports Bar is always alive before and after games – there’s honestly more atmosphere here than in the stadium – and Bodega is a local juice joint that also serves up delicious Hispanic fare. All in all, there are over twenty restaurants and breweries located on Central Avenue, so don’t hesitate to take a look. Aside from Central Avenue, there really isn’t much within walking distance. If you are in the area for an extended period of time, be sure to check out downtown St. Petersburg. There are a plethora of restaurants, parks, and outdoor activities here, and it’s only a couple miles west of the stadium.
The people here are friendly and wear the jerseys, but that’s where their involvement in the game ends. There are usually a couple people ringing their cowbells for more than just three innings, but they are few and far between. Nearly everyone will be on their phones from opening pitch until the final out, if they decide to stay that long. Every now and then, the PA announcer will declare some promotion involving free food and the crowd will cheer. Nearly every fan is very knowledgeable when it comes to the players and the organization, they just don’t care enough to pay attention to the game when it is happening. If nothing else, these fans are not hostile, which is nice if you have kids.
Getting to the Trop is not incredibly difficult, parking is plentiful, and if you have four or more people in the car, parking is free in select lots. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of stadium lots, head on over to 2nd Avenue, where you can find free parking provided you arrive early enough. Once inside, you will find that the concourses are fairly wide and well-lit, and restrooms are plentiful as are water fountains. One odd quirk about Tropicana Field is that you must walk up to get to your section if you are in the lower level. The ushers are usually very friendly, even to fans of opposing teams. The stadium is not incredibly friendly to people on crutches or in wheelchairs, but the staff do a good job working around that. There are concession stands right behind nearly every section, so you don’t have to go scouring the stadium for that one food item. Leaving the stadium after the game can be a bit tricky, but it’s far from the worst. Just have a bit of patience and you’ll be fine.
Return on Investment 2
The combination of good food and friendly people make this a pleasant, albeit boring, place to watch a game. The Trop is a nice place to relax indoors after a long day in the Florida sun, but don’t expect much more. The game action has the potential to be very exciting, but you will probably be the only one to notice.
Free programs are always a plus and they have them here. In center field is a ray tank where you can touch live rays — just be wary of the long line. If you see nothing else at Tropicana Field, be sure to visit the Hitters Halil of Fame located behind the ray tank. This place is an absolute must for any baseball fan and includes artifacts from legends such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gerhig, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, and Ty Cobb, along with memorabilia from the Negro League. On top of all this, admission is free!
Food and Drink Recommendations
Central Avenue Oyster Bar
249 Central Ave
St Petersburg, FL 33701
PUSH Ultra Lounge
128 3rd St S
St Petersburg, FL 33701
Courtyard Marriott St. Petersburg Downtown
300 4th St N
St Petersburg, FL 33701
Ponce de Leon Hotel
95 Central Ave
St Petersburg, FL 33701
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Latest Crowd Reviews
There are much better ballparks, in the state of Florida,than Tropicana Field, these however are used for Spring Training. The Stingray petting zoo is the only highlight for this venue. The neighborhood of St Petersburg is a fun place to visit so watching a baseball game, inside a concrete building isn&#039t very appealing for any sports fan. The only reason to visit, the worse ballpark, in the MLB is to complete a ballpark list of watching a game in all the MLB Ballparks.
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