The slanted, non-retractable domed roof and fan-friendly ambiance make Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, one of its kind baseball park among all MLB venues. Home to the Tampa Bay Rays, the stadium boasts many unique features seldom found in many other stadiums. The Rays Touch Tank, a waterbody with a collection of Cownose Rays found in the Tampa Bay, adds to the appeal of Tropicana Field.
A fan favorite, “The Trop” is truly a scene of many exciting matches born out of the Rays’ epic rivalry with the Red Sox and the Yankees. Though built as a baseball park, Tropicana Field continues to host 14 other sports events, including basketball, soccer, tennis, football, hockey, skating, and car racing.
Starting from 1914, many major MLB teams began to have their spring training at Florida’s St. Petersburg. The sunshine city hosted the White Sox, the Phillies, the Yankees, the Giants, the Mets, and the Orioles, among others, until 1998, when the Tampa Bay Rays took birth. But the demand for the transition from a training center to a major league city goes back to 1966 following a public campaign by Tampa Bay Times owner Jack Lake. This played a key role in the construction of Tropicana Field.
Tampa, the largest city in the Tampa Bay Area, got the NFL franchise Buccaneers in 1974. This prompted St. Petersburg, the second-largest city, to actively pursue MLB teams to relocate there. In 1983, a brand-new ballpark was proposed to add more appeal to the effort. Finally, the work on Tropicana Field started in 1986 after officials agree on a fixed permanent dome.
The Suncoast Dome, the earliest name of Tropicana Field, was opened on March 3, 1990. The Devis Cup Finals of 1990 was the first game to be played there. A number of concerts followed before it hosted its first baseball match eight years later.
The Home Team
Since 1990, there were speculations of the Chicago White Sox and the Seattle Mariners relocating to the stadium. However, these didn’t materialize though after Guaranteed Rate Field replaced Comiskey Park as the White Sox’s home. The owners of the National League blocked an announced move of the San Francisco Giants to Tropicana Field in 1992.
Now-dissolved the Tampa Bay Storm, which played in the Arena Football League, was first to make the stadium their home base in 1991. The NHL franchise Tampa Bay Lightning became the second tenant in 1994 and the Suncoast Dome was officially called the ThunderDome a year before.
With the expansion of the MLB in 1995, St. Petersburg got a place on the baseball league map and the ballpark was renovated to welcome the newly formed the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The American beverage multinational Tropicana purchased the naming rights in 1996, and the ThunderDome became Tropicana Field. This led to a massive $70-million renovation modeled after Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, the original home of the Dodgers.
On March 31, 1998, Tropicana Field hosted its first MLB match. The Detroit Tigers defeated the Rays 11-6.
Design and Features
Tropicana’s fixed slanted dome is the most familiar feature. It was built to protect players and the audience from hot, humid summers and thunderstorms. The angled design supported by a tensegrity structure reduces cooling costs and makes the structure resilient against hurricanes.
Visitors can enter and exit Tropicana Field using its six gates. The 270-meter tiled walkway leading to Gate No. 1 or the Rotunda presents Florida’s largest outdoor tile mosaic and fifth biggest in the country. At the 100-level, there are elevators, escalators, stairs, and 15 loge boxes along the infield. The 200-level allows access to 48 luxury suites. Further up is the 300-level concourse with a baby care suite. The “Porch” center field area allows open sitting and standing.
Of 2,776 club seats at Tropicana Field, many offer a private entrance, recliners, and an in-seat premium buffet. The first-floor walkway also has apparel and gear stores and interactive museums for visitors. A “Game-Used Merchandise” store is also there. Fans can buy souvenirs from smaller specialty stores scattered across the stadium.
Interactive Experiences at Tropicana Field
|Interactive Place||What To Experience||Free Day|
|Grand Slam Alley||Arcade-style games for kids||Sunday|
|Topps||Get pictures on Rays baseball cards||Sunday|
|Speed Pitch||Home run derby stimulator to hit and pitch||Sunday|
|Raymond’s Art Studio||Craft and coloring for kids||All days|
|Interactive Playground||A virtual playground for kids||All days|
The Rays Touch Tank
The biggest attraction at Tropicana Field is the lively three species of Cownose Rays in a 35-foot, 10,000 gallons tank. Located overlooking the center field, it is the place where visitors can feed rays collected from the Tampa Bay while enjoying games. But only 40 guests are allowed at a time. It remains open until 60 minutes after the first pitch.
Maintained by the Florida Aquarium, it became a part of Tropicana Field in 2006 for $10 million. For every hit into the Rays tank, the home team donates $2,500 each to the Florida Aquarium and any charity selected by the player. Also, the hit brings a home run. To date, the following seven players were able to do this.
|Luis Gonzalez||LA Dodgers||Jun 24, 2007|
|Miguel Cabrera||Detroit Tigers||Jun 30, 2013|
|José Lobatón||Home team||Oct 7, 2013|
|Nelson Cruz||Seattle Mariners||May 27, 2015|
|Brad Miller||Home team||July 31, 2016|
|Robbie Grossman||Minnesota Twins||Sept 5, 2017|
| Aug 1, 2018
Tropicana Field underwent an extensive renovation in 1996 costing $70 million, which was more than half of $130 million spent in building the stadium eight years ago. Its field underwent several changes until it received Shaw sports turf in 2017. At present, it is the only artificial MLB venue following Toronto Rogers Center turning to a full-dirt infield.
The stadium had a $35 million facelift before the 2006 season started. This included fan facilities and the Rays Touch Tank. A year later, new extra-large video boards, premium club boxes, and better family facilities were added.
Purely Baseball Things To Know
- Tropicana Field is the only MLB ballpark covered by a fixed domed roof.
- It is the smallest MLB stadium by the number of seats available.
- The design borrowed many features from Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals.
- In 1992, the San Francisco Giants announced to relocate to Tropicana Field. But it was blocked by the league owners.
- The home team was initially named the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
- The first baseball match was played in 1998 with the Rays losing to the Detroit Tigers.
- At present, Tropicana Field is the only stadium with an artificial turf field.
- The instant replay was first used during a home game against the Yankees on September 3, 2008, following a hit by Yankee Alex Rodriguez.
- The first postseason games were held in October 2008. Opponents included the White Sox (AL Division), the Red Sox (AL Championship), and the Phillies (World Series).
- The first World Series home run was scored by Chase Utley.
- The Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher achieved the first no-hitter at Tropicana Field on June 25, 2010. For the home team, the credit goes to Matt Garza.
- Three of the Toronto Blue Rays hitters were first to make consecutive home runs on a single day at the ballpark. James Loney, Wil Myers, and Sam Fuld achieved this on June 24, 2013.
- In May 2015, the Baltimore Orioles became the “home team” at Tropicana Field hosting “visiting” the Tampa Bay Rays. This role reversal was necessitated following riots in Baltimore that forced the game to move from Camden Yards to St. Petersburg.
Tropicana Field hosted 1998 regional NCAA Men’s Basketball games. A year later, it was the venue for the Final Four competition.
The stadium was the venue for the 1995 ArenaBowl IX and 2008 postseason college bowl. A sister team of the Rays, the UFL Florida Tuskers also played at Tropicana Field. Since 2012, it has been the place of the postseason college all-star East-West Shrine Game.
The Trop was part of the 1992 Florida Speedweeks, which included car sprints. In 1996 and 1997, it was included in the track for the SCCA Trans-Am Series race.
Since its inauguration, Tropicana Field continues to hold concerts regularly. Performers included Don Henley, Janet Jackson, the Eagles, New Kids on the Block, and Billy Joel. The Rays holds a “Summer Concert Series” every year that presents both established and upcoming performers during home games.
Tropicana Field hosted the 2020 WWE “ThunderDome” series of RAW and SmackDown. It was the first pay-per-view wrestling event held without a live audience.