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Tropicana Field
"The Trop"
Tropicana Field.svg

Tropicana Field Playing Field Opening Day 2010
Tropicana Field Opening Day 2010
Location One Tropicana Drive
St. Petersburg, Florida 33705
Broke ground November 22, 1986[1]
Opened March 3, 1990
Owner City of St. Petersburg
Operator Tampa Bay Rays Ltd.
Surface AstroTurf (1998–1999)
FieldTurf with dirt infield (2000–2010)
AstroTurf GameDay Grass (2011–present)
Construction cost US$130 million
($NaN in 2019 dollars[2])
Architect HOK Sport (Kansas City); Lescher & Mahoney Sports (Tampa); Criswell, Blizzard & Blouin Architects (St. Petersburg)
Structural engineer John A. Martin & Associates (bowl)[3]
Geiger Engineers P.C. (roof)[4]
Services engineer M-E Engineers, Inc.[5]
General Contractor Huber, Hunt & Nichols[6]
Former names Florida Suncoast Dome (1990–1993)
Thunderdome (1993–1996)
Tenants Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) (1998–present)
St. Petersburg Bowl (NCAA) (2008–present)
Tampa Bay Storm (AFL) (1991–1996)
Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL) (1993–1996)
Florida Tuskers (UFL) (2009, part time)
Capacity 45,369 (1998)[7]
44,027 (1999)[8]
44,445 (2000)[9]
43,772 (2002–2006)
38,437 (2007)
36,048 (2008)[10]
36,973 (2009–2010)[11]
34,078 (2011–2013)
31,042 (2014–present)[12]
42,735 (including tarp-covered seats)
Field dimensions Left Field - 315 ft (96 m)
Left-Center - 370 ft (110 m)
Center Field - 404 ft (123 m)
Right-Center - 370 ft (110 m)
Right Field - 322 ft (98 m)
Backstop - 50 ft (15 m)

Tropicana Field is a domed stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida, that has been the home of the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball (MLB) since the team's inaugural season in 1998. The stadium is also used for college football and since December 2008 has been the home of the St. Petersburg Bowl, an annual postseason bowl game. It is currently the only domed stadium in Major League Baseball that is not retractable. Tropicana Field is the smallest MLB stadium by seating capacity with tarp covered, obstructed-view seats. It opened in 1990 and was originally known as the Florida Suncoast Dome until 1993 and as the Thunderdome from 1993–1996.

HistoryEdit

After Tampa was awarded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rowdies in the 1970s, St. Petersburg decided it wanted a share of the professional sports scene in Tampa Bay. It was decided early on that the city would attempt to attract Major League Baseball. Possible designs for a baseball park or multi-purpose stadium were proposed as early as 1983. One such design, in the same location where Tropicana Field would ultimately be built, called for an open-air stadium with a circus tent-like covering. It took several design cues from Kauffman Stadium, including fountains beyond the outfield wall.[13]

Ultimately, it was decided that a stadium with a fixed permanent dome was necessary for a prospective major league team to be viable in the area, due to its hot, humid summers and frequent thunderstorms. Ballpark construction began in 1986 in the hope that it would lure a Major League Baseball team to the facility.

The stadium, built originally as the Florida Suncoast Dome, was first used in an attempt to entice the Chicago White Sox to relocate if a new ballpark were not built to replace the aging Comiskey Park. The governments of Chicago and Illinois eventually agreed to build a new Comiskey Park in 1989.

1990sEdit

The stadium was finished in 1990. It hosted the 1990 Davis Cup Finals that autumn, as well as several rock concerts, but still had no tenants. The venue helped make St. Petersburg a finalist in the MLB expansion for 1993, but it lost out to Miami and Denver. There were rumors of the Seattle Mariners moving in the early part of the 1990s, and the San Francisco Giants came close to moving to the area, with Tampa Bay investors even announcing they were, in a press conference in 1992. However, the sale was blocked by National League owners, who voted against the sale and move in November 1992[14] under pressure from San Francisco officials and the then-owner of the Florida Marlins, Blockbuster Video Chairman H. Wayne Huizenga.[15] A local boycott of Blockbuster Video stores occurred for several years thereafter.[16]

The Suncoast Dome finally got a regular tenant in 1991, when the Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm made its debut. Two years later, the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning made the stadium its home for three seasons. In the process, the Suncoast Dome was renamed the Thunderdome. Because of the large capacity of what was basically a park built for baseball, several NHL and AFL attendance records were set during their times there.[17][18]

The World of Outlaws Sprint Cars raced at the Suncoast Dome on February 7-9, 1992 as apart of Florida Speedweeks with several tracks hosting events during the month. [19]

Finally, in 1995, the dome received a baseball team when MLB expanded to the Tampa Bay area. Changes were made to the stadium and the name, which was changed due to the sale of naming rights to Tropicana Products, thus renaming it Tropicana Field in 1996. The completion of the Ice Palace in downtown Tampa permitted "The Trop" to be vacated for preparation for its intended purpose, as the Lightning and Storm moved into the facility that was built for them. A US$70 million renovation then took place—to upgrade a stadium that had cost $130 million to complete only eight years earlier. Ebbets Field was the model for the renovations, which included a replica of the famous rotunda that greeted Dodger fans for many years. The first regular season baseball game took place at the park on March 31, 1998, when the Devil Rays faced the Detroit Tigers, losing 11–6.

An SCCA Trans-Am Series race was held from 1996 to 1997 on a temporary course encompassing the parking lot and surrounding streets.

Although Tropicana was purchased by PepsiCo in 1998, PepsiCo did not elect to make any changes to Tropicana's naming rights.

Tropicana field from air

Tropicana Field from the air

Tropicana Field played host to the 1999 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four which saw the Connecticut Huskies beat the Duke Blue Devils 77–74 for the championship. Subsequently, no other NCAA men's basketball game has been played at Tropicana Field.

2000sEdit

The park was initially built with an AstroTurf surface, but it was replaced in 2000 by softer FieldTurf, becoming the first major professional facility to use it. A new version of FieldTurf, FieldTurf Duo, was installed prior to the 2007 season. Unlike other artificial turf fields used in baseball, Tropicana Field has a full dirt infield; most other artificial turf fields have only dirt "sliding pits" around the bases. Since Tropicana Field does not need to convert between baseball and football, sliding pits, designed to save re-configuration time, were unnecessary. (Tropicana has hosted football games, but never during baseball season.) On August 6, 2007, the AstroTurf warning track was replaced by brown-colored stone filled FieldTurf Duo.

Tropicana Field underwent a further $25 million facelift prior to the 2006 season. Another $10 million in improvements was added during the season. In 2006, the Devil Rays added a live Cownose ray tank to Tropicana Field. The tank is located just behind the center field wall, in clear view of the play on the field. People can go up to the tank to touch the creatures. Further improvements prior to the 2007 offseason, in addition to the new FieldTurf, include additional family features in the right field area, the creation of a new premium club, and several new video boards including a new 35 ft x 64 ft (11 m x 20 m) Daktronics LED main video board that is four times larger than the original video board. The 2007 renovation also added built-in high-definition television capabilities to the ballpark, with Fox Sports Florida and WXPX airing at least a quarter of the schedule in HD in 2007 and accommodating the new video board's 16x9 aspect ratio.

TropicanaFieldEntrance

Entrance rotunda façade as it appeared in 2008

In 2008, the NCAA announced that Tropicana Field would be host to a postseason college bowl game, bringing football to the dome.[20][21] The game, which was called the St. Petersburg Bowl, was first played on December 20, 2008 and has been played ever since, carrying sponsorship from magicJack, Beef 'O' Brady's (which acquired naming rights as well), and BitPay at various intervals.

The Trop returned to a football configuration on October 30, 2009, to host one of the three home games of the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League, which the Rays had invested in.[22] In 2011, East-West Shrine Game officials announced that the 2012 edition and beyond will be held at Tropicana Field.[23]

2010sEdit

The East–West Shrine Game, a postseason college football all-star game played each January since 1925, has been played at Tropicana Field since 2012.

FeaturesEdit

ArchitecturalEdit

TropGround

Tropicana Field has a unique slanted roof

The most recognizable exterior feature of Tropicana Field is the slanted roof. It was designed at an angle to reduce the interior volume in order to reduce cooling costs, and to better protect the stadium from hurricanes. The dome is supported by a tensegrity structure and is lit up with orange lights after the Rays win a home game. When the Minnesota Twins vacated the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome following the 2009 season and moved into Target Field in 2010, Tropicana Field became the only active Major League Baseball stadium with a fixed (i.e., not retractable) roof.

The main rotunda, on the east end of the stadium, resembles the Ebbets Field rotunda on the interior. The walkway to the main entrance of the park features a 900 ft (270 m) long ceramic tile mosaic, made of 1,849,091 one-inch-square tiles. It is the largest outdoor tile mosaic in Florida, and the fifth-largest in the United States. It was sponsored by Florida Power Corporation, which is now a part of Progress Energy.[24]

The primary 100-level concourse is at street level, with elevators, escalators and stairs separating the outfield and infield sections, since the ground is at different grades on either side. The 200-level loge box concourse is further separated, and is carpeted, as it includes the entrances to most of the luxury suites. The 300-level concourse is the highest of the concourses.

Seating and amenitiesEdit

Seating at Tropicana Field is arranged with odd sections on the third base side and even sections on the first base side. The 100-level seating wraps around the entire field with a 360° walkway. 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 Porch, along with other facility improvements, was part of a multi-million dollar renovation project that was completed before the start of the 2014 season.[25] Loge boxes are featured along the infield of the 100-level from foul pole to foul pole. 200-level seating features 20 sections along the foul lines, broken by the press box behind home plate, with the luxury boxes directly behind and above them. 300-level seating wraps around the infield along the lines, and also features the "tbt* Party Deck", a small-capacity seating area above the left field outfield seats with separate concessions inside. Rows are lettered starting closest to home plate and rise further away.

There are a total of 70 luxury suites. 48 are accessible from the 200-level, while the other 15 are located on the 100-level.

There are a total of 2,776 club seats at Tropicana Field. The Dex Imaging Home Plate Club features its own entrance, recliner seats, and a premium buffet with in-seat service. The second club section, the Rays Club, is along the first-base side on the 100-level at the Loge Box level. It features its own premium buffet and premium seating.

Field-level party sections were installed in the corners in 2006. The left field party section is named "162 Landing", in reference to Evan Longoria's walk-off home run in the 162nd and final regular season game of the 2011 season that landed in that section, which clinched the American League wild card for the Rays. The right field party section is the "Papa John's Bullpen Box." When the right field corner was sponsored by the fast food chain Checkers, tickets to the "Checkers Bullpen Cafe" included a free meal at the Checkers kiosk immediately adjacent to the section. As of 2008, both party sections feature all-you-can-eat buffets.

In 2008, the Rays also set aside a section of the press boxes on the right field side as an all-you-can-eat buffet section with typical ballpark fare. It is usually available for group parties, but it is available for individual ticketing on select dates.

Currently, the top ⅓ of the upper deck seating is tarped over, artificially reducing the stadium's capacity to 36,048 for the 2008 regular season. It was further reduced to 35,041 for the 2008 postseason since the tbt* Party Deck has been reserved by Major League Baseball as an auxiliary press area. On October 14, 2008, the Rays announced that the upper deck tarps would be removed for the remainder of the postseason, starting with a Game 6 of the 2008 American League Championship Series. This increased the capacity of the stadium to nearly 41,000, depending on standing-room-only tickets sold.[26]

The Rays Touch TankEdit

Just over the right-center field fence is the Rays Touch Tank. This 35-foot, 10,000 gallon tank is filled with cownose rays that were taken from Tampa Bay waters. Admission to the tank area is free for all fans attending home games, but there is a limit of 50 people in the area at any given time. Not only do fans get to see the rays up close and get an education about them, but they are allowed to feed them as well.

The tank helps to create an awareness of the Florida Aquarium, and educates people about rays and other aquatic life.

The tank also helps raise money for various charities in the Tampa Bay area. Proceeds from the sale of "ray food" goes to the Florida Aquarium and the team's charitable foundation. Additionally, for every ball hit into the tank during a game by a Rays player, the Rays will donate $5,000 to charity with $2,500 going to the Florida Aquarium and $2,500 going to that player's charity of choice.[27]

ConcessionsEdit

Behind center field on the stadium's ground level near the main rotunda entrance is a large, brewpub-style bar & grill called Everglades Brewhouse. The restaurant serves several craft beers in addition to having a full liquor bar and opens two hours before first pitch. A "Fan vs. Food" challenge at Everglades was introduced in 2014, which consists of eating a 4-pound burger and a pound of french fries in under 30 minutes to win two future Rays game tickets and a t-shirt.[28]

The Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar is located upstairs from Everglades Brewhouse, accessible by escalator, and across from The Porch in center field, offering a large selection of cigars, many produced by a company founded in Tampa. The lounge also features a regular bar, open seating with leather upholstery, and a large screen T.V. It is the only indoor location at Tropicana Field where smoking is permitted.

In addition to a variety of concessions, with vendors ranging from Cuban sandwich burgers to grilled sausages, there are also concession stands for Outback Steakhouse and Papa John's Pizza. Outback is a Tampa Bay-based establishment. To compete with established stadiums' hot dog traditions, the Trop introduced the "Sting 'Em" Dog in 2007. This consists of a regular hot dog topped with chili and cheese.[29] It was renamed "The Heater" in 2008.

A concession stand in center field features gluten free versions of classic ballpark food, including hot dogs, pretzels, and beer.[30]

CriticismsEdit

CatwalksEdit

Among the most cited criticisms about the stadium are the four catwalks that hang from the ceiling. The catwalks are part of the dome's support structure. The stadium was built with cable-stayed technology similar to that of the Georgia Dome. It also supports the lighting and speaker systems. Because the dome is tilted toward the outfield, the catwalks are lower in the outfield.

Tropicana Field Catwalks

The catwalks at Tropicana Field

Tropicanafieldceiling

Close-up view of the A, B, and C rings

The catwalks are lettered, with the highest inner ring being the A Ring, out to the farthest and lowest, the D Ring. The A Ring is entirely in play, while the B, C, and D Rings have yellow posts bolted to them to delineate the relative position of the foul lines. Any ball touching the A Ring, or the in-play portion of the B Ring, can drop for a hit or be caught for an out. The C and D Rings are out of play; if they are struck between the foul poles, then the ball is ruled a home run.

On August 5, 2010, Jason Kubel of the Minnesota Twins hit a sky-high infield pop-up that would have ended the inning in a 6–6 game if caught, but the ball struck the A ring and fell safely onto the infield allowing the Twins to score the go-ahead run and extend the inning in a controversial 8–6 win.[31] As a result, on October 4, 2010, Major League Baseball approved a change in the ground rules for the A and B rings, making it so that a batted ball striking either of the two rings was automatically ruled a dead ball, regardless of whether the ball strikes in fair or foul territory. The rules pertaining to the C and D rings remained the same.[32] This change lasted for just the 2010 postseason.[33]

On the other hand, several potential hits have been lost as a result of the catwalks. For example, Devil Ray Jonny Gomes was called out during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 12, 2006, when a ball he hit landed in the B Ring and rolled off to be caught by Toronto shortstop John McDonald. By the time it was caught, Gomes was already headed for home plate. Although Rays manager Joe Maddon tried to argue that it should have been at least a ground rule double since it stayed in the B Ring for a while before coming loose, umpires eventually ruled against the Rays and called Gomes out.

On May 26, 2008, Carlos Peña hit a pop-fly to center field that likely would have been caught by Texas Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton. The ball instead hit the B ring catwalk and did not come down. Peña was mistakenly given a home run, but after deliberation the umpires awarded him a ground rule double. This was the second time this had happened, as José Canseco hit a ball that stuck in the same catwalk on May 2, 1999.[34]

Many players have hit the C and D rings for home runs. The first player ever to hit the rings for a home run was Edgar Martínez of the Seattle Mariners on May 29, 1998. Martinez's home run went off the D ring. Three players before him hit balls that went into the C ring, however at the time, balls hitting the C ring were not ruled a home run. Two days prior to Martinez's home run, the ground rules were changed so that if a ball hit the C ring, it would be called a home run.[35] The first player to hit the rings for a home run in postseason play was Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who hit the C ring off Javier Vázquez of the Chicago White Sox on October 2, 2008, in the 3rd inning of Game 1 of the 2008 American League Division Series.

On July 17, 2011, during a nationally televised game against the Red Sox, Rays batter Sean Rodriguez hit a high foul popup that shattered a lightbulb on a catwalk. Pieces of the broken bulb fell to the turf near the third base coach's box. After a quick cleaning delay in which the Tropicana Field PA system played the theme to The Natural, the game resumed.

BullpensEdit

The bullpens are located along (and close to) the left and right field foul lines and there are no barriers that separate them from the field of play. In fact, fly balls hit into the bullpens are in play. The bullpen players and the pitching mounds are obstacles for fielders chasing fly balls into the pen. Teams have to station a batboy behind the catchers in the bullpens to prevent them from being hit by foul balls from behind. This style of bullpen used to be common in the Major Leagues, and is still in use in a number of other stadiums.

InteriorEdit

Another criticism of the stadium is the drab interior environment, especially early in the (Devil) Rays existence, when the stark concrete interior was compared to a large warehouse. However, since it was designed specifically with baseball in mind, it is somewhat smaller and the atmosphere is somewhat more intimate than in other domed stadiums, which often are built to accommodate football games also.

The current Rays' Stuart Sternberg-led ownership group has invested several million dollars in recent years to add various amenities and decorations including a larger scoreboard, video wall, catwalk sleeves, an outfield touch-tank featuring cownose rays, the Mountain Dew Extreme Zone featuring a massive sound system and numerous baseball video games, and other miscellaneous improvements to make the facility more attractive and "fan friendly".[36]

LocationEdit

The dome was built on the former site of a coal gasification plant and, in 1987, hazardous chemicals were found in the soil around the construction site. The city spent millions of dollars to remove the chemicals from the area.[37]

It is often criticized as being located away from the Tampa Bay area's largest population base in Tampa.[38][39][40]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Notes
  1. "Stadium Ground Broken", November 24, 1986. Retrieved on September 20, 2011. 
  2. Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2008. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
  3. John A. Martin & Associates - Sports & Entertainment
  4. Columbia University Study: Suncoast Dome
  5. Detroit Tigers to roar in Comerica Park
  6. Ballparks.com - Tropicana Field
  7. 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays Schedule, Box Scores and Splits - Baseball-Reference.com
  8. Parks, Kyle. "More Than Just Show", March 7, 1999. Retrieved on April 4, 2012. 
  9. LaPeter, Leonora. "Trop Given 90 Days to Fix Disabled Access", July 31, 2001. Retrieved on April 4, 2012. 
  10. Rays' home opener officially sold out|raysbaseball.com: News
  11. "Major league baseball preview: What's new at the Trop". Retrieved on August 22, 2010. 
  12. Chastain, Bill (December 3, 2013). Rays Provide Glimpse of Significant Trop Renovations. Major League Baseball Advanced Media. Retrieved on March 4, 2014.
  13. The original Tropicana Field
  14. Chass, Murray. "BASEBALL; Look What Wind Blew Back: Baseball's Giants", November 11, 1992, p. B11. 
  15. Chass, Murray. "ON BASEBALL; A Not-So Moving Story", August 13, 1992. Retrieved on May 26, 2010. 
  16. Hersch, Hank (August 1992). "Tale of Four Cities". Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1004133/2/index.htm. 
  17. "25,945! An NHL-Record Crowd Cheers The Lightning On To Victory". Retrieved on April 29, 2008. 
  18. Tampa Bay Storm
  19. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2002&dat=20000523&id=qx9WAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7kANAAAAIBAJ&pg=2698,5058252&hl=en
  20. "NCAA approves St. Petersburg Bowl" from St. Petersburg Times, May 1, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2008.
  21. Tropicana Field in football configuration
  22. Gary Shelton. The Tampa Bay Rays' investment in the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League prompts unfounded paranoia. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved on September 23, 2013.
  23. East-West Shrine Game Moving to St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field. East-West Shrine Game (April 27, 2011). Retrieved on January 18, 2013.
  24. The Official Site of The Tampa Bay Rays: Ballpark: Tropicana Field
  25. [1]
  26. ALCS Game 6 had an announced attendance of 40,947, while Game 7 had an announced attendance of 40,473.
  27. Rays Touch Tank presented by The Florida Aquarium
  28. [2]
  29. Hot diggity dogs St. Petersburg Times
  30. [3]
  31. "Dome-Clanking Popup Leaves Rays in Dumps", August 5, 2010. Retrieved on August 22, 2010. 
  32. Topkin, Marc. "Catwalk Rules Changed for Postseason", October 4, 2010. Retrieved on October 4, 2010. 
  33. Chastain, Bill (March 15, 2011). Ground rules changed at the Trop for 2011. MLB.com. Retrieved on March 19, 2011.
  34. Maffezzoli, Dennis. "Ace Leads Tampa Bay to the Best Record in the Majors", May 27, 2008. Retrieved on June 8, 2008. 
  35. "AMERICAN LEAGUE: ROUNDUP; Wind Blows The Indians' Direction", May 29, 1998. Retrieved on January 24, 2009. 
  36. Tampabay: No stadium in on-deck circle
  37. Costs triple for cleanup of soil at dome
  38. "Rays Style A Fan Base", October 1, 2008. Retrieved on August 22, 2010. 
  39. "No Ideal Site in Mid Pinellas Stadium for Tampa Bay Rays". Retrieved on August 22, 2010. 
  40. Potential stadium locations (PDF file)
Further reading

External linksEdit

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