We weren’t inside Tropicana Field for 10 minutes when Patti remarked, “This feels like a hockey arena.”
Honestly, we did not have high hopes for baseball’s only permanently roofed stadium. It just seems like baseball should be played outside. One benefit though is that it did have an intimate feel and there aren’t many bad views inside the stadium.
The few Rays fans there were engaged in the game, bringing out their Rays-themed cowbells from time to time.
The Trop suffers from the same issue as Marlins Park — not enough fans to make it a fun environment to watch baseball.
There are a number of large parking lots near the stadium. The Rays provide carpoolers access to free parking in team-controlled parking lots. For all Sunday games, vehicles with four or more passengers may park for free in lots 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9. For all other games, the first 100 cars with four or more people park for free up to an hour before game time, with rates for Rays parking lots ranging from $15 to $30 per vehicle.
Fans attending games at Tropicana Field are encouraged to arrive early to enjoy tailgating and baseball activities.
We were able to park in lot 2, giving prime visibility to the Children’s Hope Alliance Home Run On Wheels RV. The Rays were very accommodating with the RV — knowing we were working with a charity — and that the game on Easter Sunday would not be close to a sellout.
The location of the stadium could not be much more convenient with a spot right off the freeway — making it pretty easy to get to.
As noted above, I prefer my baseball outside. That said, there were no bad seats and it was easier to focus on the game itself without a lot of outside distractions — literally.
Attendance may have been influenced by the fact that it was Easter Sunday, but it felt like a ghost town when we walked around the concourse on the upper levels.
If it weren’t for the many Red Sox fans at the game — probably still in Florida following spring training in nearby Ft. Myers — attendance likely would have been much worse.
The Trop just doesn’t feel like a baseball stadium and it’s a rather sterile environment for a game.
That said, it’s not all bad and the Budweiser Porch in right-center field might be the best spot to see the game.
We even used that opportunity to snap a photo of Patti’s baseball heels. She’s quite proud of them.
The Porch has a huge bar area with several drink options and a number of concession stands offering a variety of food choices.
The Porch also offers a great overhead view of the Rays touch tank with the six rays swimming around. This is a wonderful way to see the rays, especially if you don’t have the desire to wait in line below — without a view of the field.
While The Trop may have a certain charm for some, it’s easy to understand why it’s regarded as one of the least-favored MLB stadiums.
We weren’t really hungry when we went to the game, so it is hard to judge. Patti did have some curry fries at the Moon Under Water stand on the ground level behind center field. If we had more time, we would have checked out their namesake British Colonial Pub on Beach Drive. We shared some delicious nachos from a concession behind the Budweiser Porch. These nachos had large chunks of pork and other meats — not your typical stadium nachos.
There are a lot of choices, but we found the options at Marlins Park to be superior. They do have a few Ybor City-themed concessions behind the tbt* Party Deck on the third level. Also, the Reuben Cuban sandwich sounds awesome. There is a listing of Rays Ballpark Top Eats and where to find them in the stadium.
The reasonable prices for tickets, parking, and concessions make Tropicana Field a good value. They have bottomless soda and bottomless popcorn available for $8 each.
The Trop may not be a great place to watch a baseball game, but you can still see MLB players compete without breaking the bank.
An interesting extra inside The Trop is the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame.
The museum includes memorabilia, not only from his career as a baseball player, but also his time as a United States Marine. The Hitters Hall of Fame includes such greats as The Babe, Stan the Man, and Jackie Robinson. Additionally, on the main floor there is a small exhibit honoring the Rays’ 20-year anniversary.
One can also attempt to pet the resident Stingrays in the Rays Touch Experience Groups of people are allowed in for about 10 minutes. By the time we got there, it seemed they were tired of being touched. It was still cool to see them swimming around and a few kids did get to touch them.
We spent more time in this area prior to the regular-season opener. That said, we still didn’t spend as much time in the Tampa area as we did in Miami, so our rating probably doesn’t do either Tampa or St. Petersburg justice.
During spring training, after a night game at George M. Steinbrenner Field, we had a delicious meal at El Puerto Restaurant and Grill in Ybor City. They serve Latin cuisine in a laid-back setting. Many locals with whom we spoke are not happy that the new Rays stadium will be built in that part of town, but we are intrigued to see what it will be like. It will definitely reduce the accessibility rating, as traffic will be bad and parking is sure to be limited. Guess we’ll have to go back and find out.
The restaurant scene is sure to be better in Ybor City, however, than off the freeway in St. Petersburg.
Speaking of off the freeway, St. Pete probably has the most scenic rest area in the country with the Manatee County rest stops off I-275 near the Skyway Bridge. This rest stop is right on the water and definitely worth the small toll to cross the bridge.