ST. PETERSBURG — A fallen bird’s nest caused Thursday night’s power outage that delayed the Rays’ game against the Los Angeles Angels for 36 minutes and left 15,291 at Tropicana Field in the dark.
A nest inside the 16th Street substation three blocks away from Tropicana Field fell, and “the bird’s nest coming in contact with our equipment likely causing sparks or a flare” that left 12,900 customers without power for three minutes, according to Duke Energy Florida spokesperson Ana Gibbs.
Inside Tropicana Field, the dome went completely dark, losing all power within the seating bowl, from the banks of LED lights that brighten the field to the stadium video boards.
With the Rays trailing 3-0 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Rays first baseman Travis d’Arnaud was at the plate facing an 0-2 count when all the electricity in the stadium went out.
The local TV broadcast on Fox Sports Sun also went dark.
The power outage, which occurred around 8:20 p.m., prompted fans to turn on their camera phone flashlights throughout the seating bowl for light.
Electricity returned within about five minutes, but the team awaited word from local police and fire authorities about an issue at the substation. Play finally resumed at 8:56.
“We were just kind of at the mercy of the substation getting power and power to us,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Angels manager Brad Ausmus said there was some discussion about postponing the game and resuming on Friday.
“There was some concern that — and this is second hand — if the substation was on fire, they’d have to cut the power again and they were worried about the 13,000 to 14,000 people in a stadium with power and they would have to evacuate,” Ausmus said. "There was some discussion about that.
St. Petersburg firefighters were investigating a weather-related incident that took place at the substation, according to police.
Lightning strikes at the substation have caused power outage delays before, and Gibbs said that animals do extensive damage to the electric grid, inducing thousands of outages every year. Squirrels cause the most outages, but snakes, raccoons, birds and other animals can also be responsible for interrupting the power grid. Duke Energy is working to retrofit some of its equipment to prevent animal interference and lightning strikes.
“We have crews working to ensure this doesn’t happen again this evening,” Gibbs said.
When play resumed, fans who remained through the delay were offered buy one, get one free on soda and beer purchases through last call.
On May 12, a Mother’s Day afternoon game against the Yankees was delayed 43 minutes. The outage was caused by a “failure of a main switch into the building.”
One reason that delay lasted so long was because the team’s operations staff had to test a rerouted electrical system to ensure the electricity wouldn’t go out again.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.