Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

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The Rays have contended for years that they need a new stadium because the Trop is outdated and badly located.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."

     
Comments
No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

No big deal for Rays at winter meetings, but it’s still coming

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Here’s the one thing we definitely know:Rays officials headed home from the winter meetings and back across I-4 Thursday without making deals to trade any of their bigger-name, higher-paid players. Not closer Alex Colome, not third...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

Are Tampa Bay Rays going to make a major deal involving Alex Colome, others? Well …

UPDATE, 4:02: It doesn't sound like the Rays and Cardinals will be making a deal today, Derrick Goold writing for the St. Louis Post Dispatch that Cardinals execs "leave the Walt Disney Dolphin resort with good feel for what Tampa Bay would be willin...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

Rays re-sign pitcher Jonny Venters, among 13 invited to spring training

LAKE BUENA VISTA — LHP Jonny Venters got as far as Triple A in September. Now the former All-Star is positioned to make it all the way back to the majors for the first time since 2012, re-signing with the Rays and headlining Thursday’s announcement o...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Veteran Jonny Venters, prospect Joe McCarthy among 13 Tampa Bay Rays spring invitees

Inspiring veteran LHP Jonny Venters and intriguing prospect 1B/OF Joe McCarthy are among 13 players invited to major-league spring training camp with the Rays.Others coming as a result of signing minor-league contracts with invites are: RHP R.J. Alan...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

Tampa Bay Rays lose RHP Burch Smith in Rule 5 draft, keep Nick Ciuffo

The Rays lost RHP Burch Smith in Thursday's Rule 5 draft but were happy to see him get an opportunity in Kansas City.They also were pleased to hang on to C Nick Ciuffo, who was left exposed but not selected.Smith, 27, was acquired from the Padres as ...
Published: 12/14/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 4

UPDATE, 11:09: RHP Steve Cishek, who was a very effective addition to the Rays pen last season, has reunited with pitching coach Jim Hickey, agreeing to a deal with the Cubs.UPDATE, 10:40: Like most teams, Rays officials are heading out of the meetin...
Published: 12/14/17
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Tampa Bay Rays making progress in trade talks

Without getting into specifics – especially the who and the where – Rays officials are for the first time talking optimistically about making a trade before the winter meetings end Thursday.Speaking at around 5:15, senior VP Chaim Bloom s...
Published: 12/13/17

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Published: 12/13/17
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 3 – updated with news

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 3 – updated with news

UPDATE, 5:55: Trade talks apparently picked up this afternoon, perhaps related to previous activity by other teams, and for first time Rays officials sound like something could happen tonight."At this point today, some of those conversations are movi...
Published: 12/13/17