St. Petersburg, FL
Review by Gary
To the uninitiated visitor to St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, you’d think the owners of the team didn’t care much if you actually found the place. Driving to “The Trop” requires looking first for a domed structure that resembles an alien ship that has crash landed. As you drive closer, it helps to have the aid of a passenger to watch for any signage marking your assigned lot, especially when COVID-19 distancing restrictions required you to pay in advance for parking.
The most recognizable exterior feature of Tropicana Field is the slanted roof, built at an angle to reduce interior volume to minimize cooling costs and also better protect the stadium from hurricanes. The dome is supported by a tensegrity or floating compression structure that is an engineering marvel but a fielding adventure for the players below if a ball hits one or more of the numerous catwalks, beams, lights, etc. before landing fair or foul. The Trop’s ground rules, when explained to visiting teams before every series, must have the visiting manager pining to hear the Pythagorean theorem explained instead.
Tropicana Field is only non-retractable domed stadium in Major League Baseball. It is also the only Major League park to feature an artificial surface with all-dirt base paths. Home to the American League’s Tampa Bay Rays, it was a shame to see that little effort is being put forth to provide an attractive stadium inside or out for a team that made it to the 2020 World Series. The only exterior signage promoting the team is at the main entrance and the indoor signage looks like it hasn’t been updated in a few years. With the usual uphill fight for the team to get a new stadium going nowhere, one rumor swirling in the area is that the Rays split their future home games between Tampa and Montreal. This idea has since been dismissed.
It may be that Tropicana Field was past it’s prime before the Rays were even a thought. Built in 1990, eight years before the Rays were born, the stadium was initially built in an attempt to entice the Chicago White Sox to relocate if a new ballpark was not built to replace the aging Comiskey Park. The Chisox got their new stadium and in 1993 and the Tampa Bay Lightning moved to the facility for three years until their arena was completed.
Just over the right-center field fence is the “Rays Touch Tank”, which, when seen from above, I naively thought was a very shallow swimming pool. This 35-foot, 10,000-gallon grand piano-shaped aquarium is filled with three different species of rays taken from Tampa Bay waters. As of June 2021, there have been seven home run balls to land in the Touch tank, but only two by Rays players.
The 100-level seating wraps around the entire field with a 360° walkway, which is a great way to see the game from every angle. Behind the stadium's batter's eye is a center field common area, known as The Porch, which provides fans with open seating and standing room to watch games. The highest rows of seating in the upper deck have been covered bringing the capacity to a cozy 25,000 (42,735 when including the tarp-covered seats).
On the field, Tyler Glasnow held the lifeless Texas Rangers hitless thru 4 1/3 innings, striking out a career-high 14. On a side note, this game marked the first time I have ever seen a fourth outfielder was added against a batter. The targeted batsman, Joey Gallo, connoisseur of the fly ball, walked twice and struck out before flying out to deep left field. A Willy Adames solo homer in the seventh was all that was needed to help the AL champions beat the sputtering Rangers on this Monday night.
Thinking that something was wrong with the electricity as the game ended, I discovered that the roof actually lights up with orange lights after the Rays win a home game. To explain the orange choice of light bulbs, inquisitive fans may have to ask one of the genuine Rays swimming in the Touch Tank. Why no one thought to use any of the multitude of team colors (Navy blue, light blue, yellow, white) to light the roof with their victory illuminations remains a mystery.