If you've never been to Florida, but have watched the Tampa Bay Rays play on television, you've probably heard an announcer or two talk about Tropicana Field like it's the old Boston Garden. You've likely hear the ballpark take a lot of the blame for the Ray's perceived low attendance. But the truth is both have been exaggerated.
First, if there is a problem with Tropicana Field, it is its location more than anything. Located in St. Petersburg, the ballpark is on the other side of Tampa Bay from the rest of Florida, which means unless you live in St. Pete, you have to take a bridge to get there. As anyone who must cross bridges in a big city during rush hour can tell you, that in a traffic nightmare. This makes getting to a weeknight game in time for a 7:05 first pitch very difficult.
The ballpark itself is fine. It pales in comparison to the new baseball palaces that have been built since this park was built in the late 1980s, but it is not the dump it is made out to be. Yes, there is an occasional lost pop fly because of the off-white roof, much like the old Metrodome in Minnesota. But there are no more lost pop ups in the Trop than there are lost pop ups in the sun at an outdoor stadium.
Yes, there is on rare occasion, a pop fly that will hit a catwalk and mess things up a bit. But we are talking one or two times per season, not every game like the TV networks would have you think.
Let me tell you something good about Tropicana Field. It is air conditioned. Outdoor baseball in new York or Boston may be great. But try sitting in an outdoor stadium in Florida for a day game in the middle of summer. You think that's fun? Tell you what. Go to a football game in Florida in late September during the day and tell me how much fun that is.
Another good thing about the Trop...it is indoors. How important is that? Well, if you live clear on the other side of the state and you take a couple of days off to take your kids to a series, you already know the games will get played. Check the schedules of some of the minor league teams that play in Florida and look at how many rain outs and double headers are on there.
Recently, I made a trip to a college baseball game in Florida. I drove for 200 miles only to see an inning and and a half before the skies opened up. If you've never been to Florida, let me describe a rain shower in for you. Picture driving through a car wash that lasts for miles. This was rain so hard that on the way back many of the cars just pulled off the interstate and parked. Do you think they are going to play baseball in that? Do you want to drive three hours to a game only to have this happen? Because in the summertime it is about a 75% chance.
The Trop is a clean, indoor stadium with comfortable seats. The concourse level is nice and wide. The restrooms are clean. The staff is friendly. There is a tank full of stingrays the kids can go down and look at and even feed and pet. There is a museum dedicated to Ted Williams at the Trop with all sorts of cool memorabilia from his playing days and his days in the service.
At some point, the Rays will get a new ballpark. They will get one of those state of the art monstrosities with plenty of corporate perks meant to cater to big business rather than the fans. This enables the team to hopefully pay its star players more money and supposedly make the team better.
But when that day comes, many will miss the Trop. Because when the Trop goes, so to will go the days of cheap tickets, lots of elbow room, and a park you where can bring your own food. If you are planning a trip to Florida, don't be afraid to check out a Rays game at Tropicana Field. The place may not be as fancy as you are used to back in your home city, but it is not the dump it is made out to be.
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