Here are some insider tips to up your game at the Tropicana Field.
• The back row of the 200 level can be a great place to watch the game, because you can catch replays on the TVs meant for the suites.
• The wait for on-field access for postgame concerts (you'll need an armband) can be brutal. If you want a position up front, head for the line after the seventh-inning stretch.
• The cleanest restrooms are on the 200 level.
• Beer sales stop after the seventh inning. So that's why you hit some of the brew pubs (Cycle, Green Bench, Three Daughters) and sports bars (Ferg's) before the game for a couple of cheaper brews, then you can pace yourself better.
• If someone offers you a Hancock Bank Club ticket gratis, take it in a heartbeat. Free beer and wine (the mixed drinks are really expensive, though), plus a buffet, plus nice private bathrooms. And that's just inside the place. The seats are nice and plush and offer a sweet view.
• The area behind the tbt* party deck is a cool place to watch the game. With its full bar and tables where you can stand and chat, it's a good place to hang out if you don't like your seat up in the nosebleeds.
• Don't even try to get into the area where the suites are unless you have a ticket. They always check. Always. (That's not to say you can't get in; we know ways, but we really can't tell you unless you contact us at a top secret location.)
• When you're leaving the Trop from the 300 sections, it's faster to take the down ramp outside than to negotiate the escalators and crowds inside.
PARKING FREEBIE ALERT
Ride a bike and you can park right near the rotunda entrance for free! You can come in off the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street entrance, or you can enter from 11th Street near Ferg's. (Careful about those cars on First Avenue S whizzing by.)
PARKING FREEBIE ALERT II
Third Avenue S between Fourth and Eighth streets has on-street parking that's free after 6 p.m. This requires a walk from between seven and five blocks, but is very pleasant.
You don't want to park on the street at a meter. You can only purchase two hours at a time, and most games last three. Yes, they do check until midnight unless the sign says otherwise. And don't even think about trying to squeeze into some nondescript place on a side street. The parking attendants work most games, and you will more than likely get a ticket. Better to pay the $10 or $15 for a private lot than a $25 ticket. . . . Speaking of private lots, most are reasonable and require less than a five-block walk.
ENJOY SPECIAL DISCOUNTS
Every Sunday is Family Fun Day. The Rays do a giveaway to the first 10,000 kids 14 and younger. After the game, kids can run the bases. . . . For all regular games, military personnel with an ID can purchase up to four half-price outfield seats.
BRING IT ON IN
• If it's raining, you're allowed to bring an umbrella in.
• If the Rays have a chance to sweep an opponent, by all means bring a broom. Just don't do anything crazy with it.
• If you have a baby stroller that can fit under YOUR seat (think hard about this) you can bring it with you to your spot. Otherwise, you'll have to check it with guest services.
• If you're hungry and on a budget, bring a snack. But all food brought in must be contained in a clear plastic bag. Bottled water must be sealed and no more than 1 liter in volume.
LEAVE IT AT HOME
• No beach balls allowed.
• No airhorns (although we've heard one in there before; what gives?)
• No tripods (but you can bring a videocamera).
• No lenses longer than 12 inches on your camera.
FEED THE RAYS
No, not the team members. We're talking about the herd of cownose rays that are in a tank in centerfield. Up to 50 people at a time can spend 10 minutes with them for free. You can also buy food, and the donation goes to the Florida Aquarium and the team's foundation. The lines are significantly shorter during weeknight games.
Editor's note: This story was updated in March 2014 to reflect changes at Tropicana Field.