Tropicana Field - Tampa Bay Rays
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Tropicana Field 1 Tropicana Dr St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Year Opened: 1990
Swinging with the Rays
Here is an inescapable fact: Tropicana Field looks and feels old, outdated, and is arguably the most likely MLB stadium to be replaced in the coming years. However, here is another fact: the Tampa Bay Rays have done the absolute best with what is, at best, a moderately unfortunate stadium situation. With prospects for the Rays getting a new home constantly in a state of flux, fans still have to deal with The Trop for at least a few more years.
That said, all is not drab when it comes to this aging dome in western Florida. The facility is located in a stunning neighborhood that is one of the best hidden gems in the state. It also has some pretty unique features that no other stadium in America has. And, it still feels like an enjoyable day at the ballpark when all is considered.
Food & Beverage 4
The food options at Tropicana Field include the standards as well as local favorites, but also won’t break the bank. Concessions stands around the park feature almost the same items no matter where you go – main options include hot dogs ($5), pizza (pepperoni, veggie, or cheese – $9), burgers ($10), chicken sandwiches (grilled or spicy – $10), salads ($12), or chicken tenders with fries ($11). Sides and snacks include peanuts ($8), candy ($6), pretzels ($6), nachos with cheese ($8), and bottomless popcorn ($8). Drinks range from bottled water or soda ($4) to SmartWater ($8), unlimited soda ($9), and beer ($10). The stadium also features a discount on all concessions prices for season ticket holders as well.
This is a tough stadium to like at first, but once you walk around and get a feel for the place it can start to grow on you. The exterior of the stadium looks like there is a massive flying saucer dome rising up out of the neighborhoods of St. Petersburg. The plain white facade isn’t very welcoming at first, but the stadium has a few added touches outside, such as a walk of fame, that make it a little more inviting.
Once inside you can see where the old stadium architecture of the late 80s and early 90s was used, featuring lifeless corridors for concourses and vaulted ceilings in places one wouldn’t expect. The interior boasts a large circular roof with catwalks that frequently catch baseballs popped up into the air.
The lack of fans on a nightly basis also tends to kill the vibe, but a loyal following of Rays fans still show up, and for the big teams that visit, such as the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, etc., the stands tend to fill up even more, albeit with opposing fans.
Tropicana Field, however, has been spruced up by the Rays in a way that shows the team is at least trying. Hanging light strings across the concourse where the concessions stands reside help liven up the look of the place, and various bars are located throughout the stadium, including a nice set-up in the outfield that offers an overlook of the playing field. In addition, large photos and displays hang on some of the walls to give them color and offer a glimpse into the team’s history.
Additionally, when the team hits a home run, the giant white dome lights up with bright blue and orange colors that illuminate the entire stadium, producing a pretty neat effect inside the facility. So for all the negatives one can find at Tropicana Field, there are some positives to be had.
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 Tropicana Field), and professionals mixing with both city and suburban folks. Furthermore, the neighborhood around the 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).
While Tropicana Field is close to the popular downtown area, it is also on the edge of neighborhoods that have seen better days, and have yet to catch the growing revitalization wave. Hotels and resorts vary from motels a few blocks away to the beautiful Hilton in the heart of downtown, which puts you close to the shopping and dining that draws the crowds.
For lodging options, just blocks away from Tropicana Field are a Marriott and a Hampton Inn. In addition, the city is situated right on the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Mexico, so the beach is just a few minutes’ drive away – often rated among the greatest beaches in the country, relaxation under the sun is easier here 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 food, don’t miss Urban Brew and BBQ, as well as Bavarro’s for quality Italian. And for the sights, you can visit the famous Dali Museum, just a short drive away from Tropicana Field, as well as St. Pete Beach to the west.
The Rays have indeed suffered from lackluster performance over the last few years, but are on the upswing. After their late 2000s and early 2010s runs into the playoffs, including a World Series appearance in 2008, the team is once again pushing for the playoffs. Regardless, Tropicana Field still has what many baseball teams in Florida suffer from, which is a lack of fans.
Florida is a place where there is so much to do, especially in the greater Tampa Bay area, let alone Central Florida, that if the team isn’t winning enough, fans are more likely to head to the beach, a theme park, or do something else to occupy their time in the Sunshine State. And while a loyal group of fans still shows up every night and cheers with a passion, that hasn’t been enough for the Rays to fill up the stands. The majority of the upper deck seating is covered in tarps because of this, with all upper level seating closed off, even for big-time matchups, and most of the outfield seats remain unfilled on game day. Tailgating outside the stadium is also nonexistent, as most fans just come to the game and just go inside because of the intense heat in Florida.
Getting to The Trop is as easy as possible, with I-175 and I-375 branching off of I-275 and literally bookending the facility itself. Seeing the massive white dome rising from the neighborhood around it is kind of hard to miss, even from across Tampa Bay itself – how much easier could it be to find Tropicana Field than that?
Parking right in front of the entrance at Tropicana Field can run you anywhere from $10 to $30. Parking is also plentiful, regardless of how crowded the game is going to be, which makes for an easier time finding somewhere to park for those who aren’t familiar with the area.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Tampa Bay Rays games start as low as $10 for some weekend games. Also, with the team looking to give fans options, many tickets can be purchased bundled with food items, for example the team offers a press-level ticket (middle deck) that includes a 20 oz. bottled soda and chips for $20. Kids tickets are just $2 on Tuesdays, and upper-level tickets on Fridays are just $7.11 with a coupon from a local 7-Eleven store.
The team also features numerous giveaways, from canvas bags to jerseys, toy cars, magnets, and bobbleheads. Coupled with the price of concessions and parking, a family of four can easily go to a Rays game for under $100, which is not something many other teams can boast.
Tropicana Field features one of the coolest features in all of baseball with their stingray petting pool; this outfield feature houses dozens of varying stingray species swimming in a salt water pool that is visible from the playing field. All fans are allowed to walk down to the outfield tank, and they can even reach in to touch the stingrays as they swim by.
The stadium also has a walk of fame outside its main entrance that features both commemorative plaques in the ground for sponsors and season ticket holders, as well as players of years past with their handprints.
While many may regard Tropicana Field as one of the worst stadiums in baseball, the facility still has some life in it. Yes, the age and overall aesthetic of the place just feels “meh” worthy, but the Tampa Bay Rays have called it their home since their inception in 1998, and you can almost feel a bit of history when you walk through the ballpark doors.
The Rays also enjoy the luxury of being located in one of Florida’s great cities in St. Petersburg. Fans visiting may well be put off by the venue’s general dullness, but they will still find a comfortable experience to watch a game of baseball. Understanding the stadium’s shortcomings from the start, any fan traveling through may be surprised by The Trop before they head home.