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Tropicana Field makeover would cost $1.3 million

Published Nov. 15, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays would not give many specifics about a major renovation planned for Tropicana Field, but city records provided a better glimpse — including the overhaul's $1.3 million price tag.

The Rays are planning what is being referred to as 360-degree "interior stadium fan access" with the creation of walkways behind the outfield seating areas and opening up what was the dark, glass-fronted Batter's Eye restaurant into an open-air meeting spot with concessions.

"Fans can actually walk around the stadium without having to go into the concourse area," said Joe Zeoli, the city's managing director of development administration. "You will be able to watch the game as you move from left field to right field, for example.

"Most of the other items are maintenance," he said. "This item will kind of get everybody's attention."

When Rays owner Stuart Sternberg declined this week to talk about specifics, he did tout the team's continued investment "to create the best fan experience at Tropicana Field we possibly can."

However, the bulk of the money for the overhaul is coming from a special stadium capital projects escrow account the city controls.

The account, which currently has a balance of $2.1 million, is funded with naming rights revenues and ticket fees as part of the city's contract with the Rays. The team can't spend money from the account without city approval.

The City Council will be asked to approve the $1.3 million project at its Nov. 25 meeting.

In the past, the account has funded such work as maintenance of the stadium's roof, replacement of air conditioning systems and parking lot repairs.

The current renovation plan to create a 360-degree access for fans appears similar to the Rays' Port Charlotte spring stadium, which has a boardwalk and centerfield tiki bar.

Zeoli said the team will be responsible for costs associated with the build-out of concessions in the former Batter's Eye restaurant area.

Though the glass walls are coming down, there still has to be a dark area in centerfield that provides the hitting background, which is known as the batter's eye. In the new configuration, that may be a screen or a mesh banner, and it will be smaller than the fronting of the restaurant, though it will meet league requirements. The Rays likely will consult with the coaching staff — and possibly have hitters test it out — to make sure it provides the proper background.

The renovation also will include restroom upgrades, pipe replacement and ceiling restoration in the home clubhouse, improved exterior lighting in employee parking areas, refurbishment of exterior awnings and various ADA projects. All of the work is expected to be complete before the start of the 2014 baseball season.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283.

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