Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field renovation includes interior walkway, fewer seats

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays unveiled plans to renovate Tropicana Field on Tuesday, touting the creation of a 360-degree walkway around the lower bowl, an open air meeting spot in centerfield and smoother access from the rotunda entrance to the seats.

"This project will significantly improve the total ballpark experience," said Michael Kalt, the team's senior vice president for development and business affairs. "It will make it much easier for our patrons to navigate the ballpark and allow them to enjoy the game from exciting new areas and dynamic new vantage points."

The renovation includes the removal of about 3,000 seats, mostly to make room for the walkway. Drink rails will allow people to meet on the walkway, while watching the action. Several rows of seats that remain above the leftfield walkway will be covered by tarps because views are likely to be obstructed by standing fans. No tarps are planned for rightfield because the walkway will run where the top three rows used to be.

A few hundred more upper deck seats also will be tarped, with stadium capacity dropping from more than 34,000 to 31,000. Those upper deck seats rarely sell, Kalt said, and concentrating fans in a smaller area will add a sense of intimacy.

Smaller stadiums are a trend in baseball. They can boost advance sales if fans worry that walk up seats will not be available.

The Rays have contended for years that they need a new stadium because the Trop is outdated and badly located. Attendance last year trailed every team in the major leagues, even though the Rays made the playoffs.

The renovations, expected to cost nearly $750,000, do not signal retrenchment from the team's desire for a new ballpark, Kalt said. But they do reflect an uncertain future, where construction time alone for a new stadium could consume at least three years.

"This is a statement that we are committed to our fan base in this area," Kalt said. "We know we are going to be in this building for a number of years."

The team will foot most of the bill, he said, though a small amount will come from a Trop maintenance fund that builds up over the years from the city's share of naming rights and ticket revenues. The City Council last month approved spending $1.3 million from that fund for off-season work, including restroom upgrades, piping work and other maintenance needs.

One hallmark of new stadiums is a design that lets fans move around the ballpark without being cut off from a field view. During games, thousands of people may wander to various entertainment and gathering spots.

A fan in a leftfield seat wants to hang out with a friend in rightfield? Now they can meet somewhere along the walkway.

The Trop had an existing lower walkway that ran from foul to foul pole. The new arrangement extends it all around the stadium.

Centerfield featured a restaurant behind dark glass, giving hitters a contrasting backdrop when the pitcher threw the white ball at them.

The roof and walls of that restaurant have now been removed, opening it to the playing field. A semi-opaque screening will be installed in the center portion, so batters can still see the ball. But portions on both sides will remain open to the field.

That restaurant area will connect directly to the Captain Morgan party deck in leftfield, and a new mingling area in rightfield, overlooking the rays tank.

All of this new "meeting space" will feature concession stands and some bar-type seating. An escalator will connect it to the ground floor rotunda entrance, allowing fans who enter the stadium from the east to access the field quickly, then move to seats around the interior walkway.

This arrangement "will get people in where they can see where they want to be and get to and not have to follow a bunch of signs," Kalt said, referring to the Trop's current maze of escalators, dingy concrete hallways and entrance ramps to the field.

Roughly two-thirds of fans enter through the rotunda. Most people who buy food do so on the ground level before moving to their seats, including fans who sit in the upper deck.

The new arrangement will let them linger in the centerfield "meeting area" if they like and watch the first inning or so while they eat.

Kalt said the changes will add value to outfield seats because of the new offerings in center field. The team had tried adding "neat and cool" spaces to the stadium before, such as the Captain Morgan party deck, the rays tank and restaurants, but the stadium was so chopped up they were hard to reach.

Now, he said, the team has created an atmosphere "where you won't be stuck in your seats for nine innings."

Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field renovation includes interior walkway, fewer seats 12/03/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 11:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    OF/DH Corey Dickerson missed out on a good birthday gift when AL player of the week honors went instead to Detroit's J.D. Martinez. Dickerson hit .385 with five homers, nine RBIs and nine runs; Martinez went .389-4-9-7 and got the nod.

  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb learning to work with what he has

    Sports

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If this were 2012 or 2013, even 2014, RHP Alex Cobb would have problems. He would find himself working with only two of his three pitches, with the missing pitch being his trusty changeup.

    Alex Cobb, working mainly with his fastball and curveball, is 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA over his past five starts. The Rays right-hander tries to continue his strong stretch tonight against the Angels.
  4. Rays vs. Angels, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Angels

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.