The two biggest changes at Tropicana Field this season aren’t actually about what’s been added but what’s been taken away.
For one, cash is no longer accepted for any purchases such as concessions or souvenirs.
It’s major credit cards, debit cards, Rays gift and season ticket holder cards, Apple and Samsung pay only in a change the team says will expedite purchasing, including from vendors in the stands. Cash can be used to buy gift cards at retail locations and from roaming vendors. Parking lots switched to cash-free last year.
For another, the 300-level upper deck is closed, creating what the team hopes will be a more intimate atmosphere while reducing capacity to 25,025. That’s smallest for a major-league stadium., per ballparksofbaseball.com, since the Angels played in 1961 at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, with a capacity of 20,457. The Rays relocated flex-pack buyers and lower-cost tickets to the party deck above leftfield and the lower corners.
The Rays play a 12:35 p.m. exhibition game Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers at the Trop before opening the season with a 4:05 game Thursday against the Houston Astros. Here’s some other changes fans will see at the Trop:
* Installation for the third straight year or a new Shaw Sports turf, which is supposed to be more durable; and new energy-efficient LED lights, which should be brighter and also have entertainment features.
* Renovations to add the Left Field Ledge common area, with premium seating for small groups, and the Outfielder Bar & Grill (full service/menu restaurant in the former Brewhouse space), and to improve access/egress through Gates 4, 5.
* Restrictions on gate-opening times, now 90 minutes before all games except opening day (two hours), and backpacks that can be brought in (basically only medically necessary or diaper bags). There will be exterior access to The Outfielder and Ballpark & Rec food/drink areas four hours before first pitch on post-4 p.m. start times for a “tailgate party” with reduced prices.
* Opening of new food stands such as Cubanos (locally inspired “with a stadium twist”), Grilled Cheese, Southern Fried (chicken, bread pudding) and Pacific Counter (including build your own sushi bowls); and a Keep it Local retail shop (including Rowdies gear).
Contact Marc Topkin at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays