Tampa Bay Rays
Posted by Kurt Smith
Here it is Rays fans and Tampa Bay visitors…your complete Tropicana Field parking guide for your next Rays baseball game! I’m here to help you find the best Rays parking…whether you’re looking to be close to the ballpark, save some money, enjoy a pre- or post-game party, or even take advantage of the useful shuttles to the Trop.
I’m even throwing in some alternate routes, to help you with the much-maligned traffic problem in Tampa Bay.
You actually have a lot of options, so I’m breaking this down:
Alternate Routes to Tropicana Field
Tampa Bay Rays Parking
Ferg’s Parking For Rays Games
Satellite Tropicana Field Parking Lots + Garages
Free And Cheap Street Parking
The Baseball Shuttle and Pier Parking
The Brew Bus
The Cross-Bay Ferry
Okay here we go, after this quick word from our sponsor:
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #1) Alternate Routes to Rays Games. Driving to the Trop is simple enough in theory. The Trop is easily accessible by I-275 at exits 21 and 23B (I-175 and I-375 also feed into the ballpark area), and the big white dome is visible for miles. The Rays have a nice little parking map on their website with some helpful info.
That said, traffic can be a major issue on weeknights, especially for folks coming from Tampa or Orlando. This is one of the bigger knocks on the location of the ballpark…and one oft-cited reason for chronic low attendance despite a perennially good team.
Coming from east of the bay, I highly suggest leaving early, before rush hour if you can. Having driven on I-4 (the route of Disney-destined tourists), I’d far rather pay the toll for a lesser-used route. If you don’t have one, it’s definitely a good idea to get a SunPass to avoid sitting at tollbooths (EZPass works fine if you’re not a Floridian).
Here are some suggestions for avoiding traffic that I’ve read. I haven’t tried these, so don’t hold me to them, but they might help.
Coming from the north, you can get off I-275 at 22nd Avenue and make a right onto 16th Street; this could route you past I-275 backups, and the Trop itself is on 16th Street South.
Coming from south Tampa, using Gandy Boulevard (CR-600 or U.S. 92) over the Gandy Bridge to 4th Street (also U.S. 92) is reportedly a bit easier than using I-275 and the Howard Frankland Bridge over Tampa Bay. It doesn’t look easier on a map, but people say traffic really moves.
Coming from areas south of St. Petersburg, like Bradenton, etc., drivers have to use I-275 over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which costs a small toll. From the south you can exit I-275 at 26th Avenue, make a right onto 26th, and then a left onto 16th towards the ballpark. Or you could use the 31st Street exit and make a right onto 5th Street.
If traffic is particularly bad, you can use the 54th Street exit, make a left onto 31st and a right onto 26th.
Here’s Tropicana Field on Google Maps to help you visualize all of this.
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #2) Tampa Bay Rays Parking. There are about 7,000 spaces directly at the Trop. The Rays sell prepaid parking passes on their website, but you probably won’t need it for most games if you’re here an hour or more before game time, especially on a weeknight. Like with tickets, parking for premium games (Yankees, Red Sox, World Series, etc.) is more expensive.
“Premier” lots 1 and 5, with easy access in and out, are a few bucks more than the other lots, and these are lots that people usually prepay for (and they will tell you it’s worth the few extra bucks). The Rays don’t accept cash payment for parking anymore, so borrow someone’s credit card.
The Rays offer wheelchair and accessible parking spaces in Lots 1 and 7. They are very well laid out and close to the center field and home plate entrances. They also have a drop-off area at the corner of 4th Avenue and 16th Street, near the home plate entrance (which is not the rotunda, btw).
Tailgating is permitted in the Rays general parking lots, and there are port-a-potties available for relief. It’s nowhere near Milwaukee as far as the scene, but a few folks set up grills and eat and drink beforehand. On occasion there is entertainment outside.
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #3) Ferg’s Sports Bar. Outside of the Rays parking lots there is some parking at Ferg’s, the popular post-game hangout that is close enough to the Trop to make the parking price a relative bargain. It’s literally right there at the ballpark…it’s actually closer than some of the Rays’ official lots. They even have tunnel access from the venue to the ballpark, great for those stormy Florida days.
Ferg’s will occasionally give discount coupons for their tavern to folks that park there. Perfect if you were including some time at Ferg’s in your plans, as many Rays fans do…they’ve got craft beers, burgers and wings, and 90-something TV sets.
Ferg’s is a big and popular place with a great location, and if you’re into sports bars and pre- or post-game libations you’ll love it. Even if you’re not doing a party, Ferg’s might be the best value for Tropicana Field parking.
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #4) City Lots. If you don’t mind walking a bit in downtown St. Petersburg for a cheaper option, there are an additional 4,000 spaces in nearby street lots. East of the ballpark along 1st Avenue, or north of the Trop along 16th Street, there are several St. Petersburg-approved lots that can be much cheaper than the Rays lots on game nights.
Keep in mind that the Rays’ lots east of the ballpark are fairly large, so if you choose one of these it could be at least a 5-10 minute walk to get to the rotunda entrance. Several fans online have recommended the Johns Hopkins Middle School parking lot southwest of the Trop. It’s among the cheaper options and just a half mile walk.
You can look for the signs with a blue P; this means the lot is city-approved. Most lots charge about half or what the Trop charges, so if there are less than three of you this is a better deal. No tailgating though.
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #5) Street Parking. Near the shuttle stop at the Pier, or north of the ballpark on Central Avenue, you might find some metered parking that is deactivated for the evening, but unless you see something that says it is, don’t try a metered spot either here or near the Trop.
Most meters only have enough time for two hours and run until 11:00 PM. I’ve read differing accounts on how tough St. Petersburg is on street parking regulations; just pay a few bucks for a lot if you’re not certain. Garages at the waterfront are cheap and a better option, as I’ll discuss in a moment.
According to the St. Pete Times, there is some free street parking on 3rd Avenue South between 4th and 8th Streets. They admit it’s at least a five-block walk, but the exercise can’t hurt. There’s also reportedly free street parking on 2nd Avenue, between 6th and 7th Streets.
On the south side of the Trop is a handicapped accessible pedestrian overpass that was built to enable people living in the Campbell Park area to cross I-175 to get to Rays games. There are two parking lots in the park there (not sure what they cost if anything), and it’s fairly close to the ballpark with a nice view crossing a highway. I might not do it at night (I’ve read it isn’t the best of areas), but it could be pleasant for day games.
If you’re taking a bus with a group, the city will let you park for free on 4th Avenue South, between 9th and 10th Streets.
As far as other free parking options, I’ve read some tips in the Reddit world. Suggestions include north of the ballpark on Burlington Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets (this is a hike), and some of the side streets close to the pier (this is an even longer hike, but check out the shuttles bit coming). Honestly it’s probably not going to be worth the trouble here.
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #6) Baseball Shuttle. For all home games now, even games that have a post-game concert, the Rays and St. Petersburg offer a free Baseball Shuttle (also called the Baseball Looper Trolley) that runs from 2nd St. between Central and First Avenues (under the pedestrian bridge), and from 16th Street just south of 3rd Avenue to the ballpark.
The shuttle starts picking up passengers 90 minutes before the game, and runs for one hour after the game, with service approximately every 5-10 minutes. It will also continue to run after a post-game concert.
I’ve used the baseball shuttle with a family of four, and I’m a big fan. Nothing like very cheap parking and much less congestion. You might be waiting a bit after the game, but otherwise it’s well worth it.
If the Baseball Shuttle isn’t running (the policy changes from season to season for which games it’s available), the PSTA Central Avenue Trolley bus runs from the pier and along Central Avenue, with a couple of stops near the Trop.
This can be used on Friday and Saturday nights for a tiny fee, and there is inexpensive parking near the Pier, but check the schedule to make sure you can get back on time. If you’re out of the ballpark by 10:30 or so you should be fine, although extra innings might be a problem.
The shuttles are nice because you have dining and entertainment options downtown before or after the game; but again, check the schedule.
Incidentally, several PSTA bus routes stop at 1st Avenue and 2nd Street north of the shuttle; might not be bad for a weekend game if the PSTA schedule permits.
There are several major lots near the Baseball Shuttle pickup location:
Rays Shuttle Parking: Al Lang Stadium. Al Lang Stadium (formerly Progress Energy Park) has a fair amount of inexpensive parking right at the Pier, and it’s a short walk to the Shuttle stop. You can usually park all day for a small fee at Al Lang, so if you want to include a visit to the Salvador Dali museum across the street it’s very convenient.
Rays Shuttle Parking: Sundial Parking Garage. The Sundial is for the entertainment complex located on the corner of 2nd St. and 2nd Avenue North. It is at the shuttle stop, and the walkway to get to it is well lit at night. The easiest entrance to this lot is traveling south on 2nd St.
According to the nice lady I contacted from the Pier, the event rate doesn’t apply to Rays games because of the distance, but it does kick in for outings at the Pier. Something to be mindful of, although the event rate isn’t usually too high. If there isn’t anything going on, parking is cheap.
Rays Shuttle Parking: South Core Garage. The South Core Garage is located right off of 1st Avenue South, a block away from the pier. This is also close to the shuttle and inexpensive; as with the Sundial garage, the event rate kicks in for local events but not ballgames.
Generally the South Core Garage fills up on Opening Day, so have a backup plan if you need it; most of the time the overflow goes to the Sundial.
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #7) The SunRunner. PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) has added a nice new service that makes getting to Rays games a bit easier. The SunRunner is an eco-friendly bus that uses designated lanes to bypass traffic. Even better, at the moment it’s free (that may change after 2023). It stops on the north side of Tropicana Field.
The SunRunner’s route extends from St. Pete Beach to near the Pier and Cross Bay Ferry. It also stops near the Albert Whitted Airport if you’re flying in for a game. It is a pretty long route, so there’s plenty places to park along it. Plan ahead and park near a good restaurant or attraction (there are plenty of them).
There’s two advantages to using the SunRunner. The first is that with separate lanes for its route, it avoids ballgame traffic that your car can’t. The second is that you can save on parking, without adding to your walk. Brilliant!
The PSTA folks tout “free on-street parking” as one of your options using the SunRunner. I’m sure that’s true, but if you don’t know the area you can use a public lot or garage near the route. It should be easy to find something cheap.
The SunRunner runs until midnight. You should be easily able to make it back, especially with ballgames being faster these days. Buses run every 30 minutes after 8:00 PM.
I haven’t yet found an easy solution for avoiding traffic and wasting gas going to a Rays game. There’s not much as far as public transportation from outside St. Petersburg. But here are some options if you’re across the bay (and if you share this annoyance with other fans in the area):
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #8) The Brew Bus. The Brew Bus people are based in several Florida cities. Their focus is providing transportation to folks that want to tour breweries in South Florida or Tampa Bay, but they offer shuttle service to Tropicana Field for select regular season games.
They’ll take you from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa (you can park there for free) to Ferg’s across the street from the Trop and back afterward. They throw your game ticket and a couple of beers in the package too. Good craft beers too, not the generic stuff. So this is extra cool, especially to avoid navigating through the traffic and finding a spot.
The price is reasonable for everything included, and the Brew Bus people are popular with locals. You may decide you’d like to do a brewery tour with them sometime.
The bus leaves to go back 20 minutes after the game, so be sure to be back by then.
Tropicana Field Parking, Tip #9) The Cross-Bay Ferry. OK, maybe it isn’t a parking tip, but just putting this out there.
The Cross-Bay Ferry runs from the Tampa Convention Center and drops riders off near the St. Petersburg Pier. Presumably from there you could use the Baseball Shuttle or the SunRunner to get to the ballpark. You should be able to find parking near the Convention Center easily enough, although I don’t know if it would be free.
Unfortunately the ferry doesn’t run late enough to make it viable for weeknight games, and on weekends traffic isn’t that bad from Tampa anyway. It might be nice for a romantic outing or something, but it won’t save you any traffic headaches or money.
There you go baseball fans…your exhaustive user-friendly guide to parking at Tropicana Field! I hope you’ve found this useful for all your future Tampa Bay Rays games, and I gave you some options you might not have known about. Remember, getting to the ballpark is half the fun!
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Posted by Kurt Smith
If you’re going to a Tampa Bay Rays for the first time, there are a few things you should probably know, and I’ve included some of my favorite Tropicana Field tips here. The Trop is one of the more wallet-friendly venues in baseball and won’t break your bank, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few ways to save on a trip to the game.
Visiting Tropicana Field, Tip #1: Check the secondary market. The Rays are the lowest drawing team in baseball, so with the exception of a few high demand games like Opening Day and weekend Yankees games, you can almost always score a great deal on secondary outlets like TickPick. If all you care about is getting in, though, you can buy the cheaper seats at the box office.
Visiting Tropicana Field, Tip #2: Buy the cheap seats. As stated, the Rays don’t draw big crowds, so you can almost always move to a better seat if you don’t get greedy. The upper level especially is almost universally the same price for seats, so no one is likely to care if you move a few rows down and closer to home. In the lower levels the ushers are more likely to give you a hard time, but you could probably find a decent place to sit.
Visiting Tropicana Field, Tip #3: Take advantage of parking options. The Rays no longer offer free parking to cars with four or more people riding in them.But you have plenty of parking options that can help you save money, walk less, and enjoy good times before or after the game. Check out my complete Tropicana Field parking guide here!
Visiting Tropicana Field, Tip #4: Try the Mac Bat or a Cuban sandwich. The Mac Bat is probably something you’ve never seen before; it’s a breaded cone shaped like a baseball bat (obviously) full of mac and cheese, which is then topped with chili, layers of bacon and jalapenos. Yes sir.
But there’s also the classic Cuban sandwich, which is as good a go-to items here as any…ham and gooey Swiss cheese on pressed bread. There are other cool food stuffs too, but the Mac Bat and Cuban are best for first time visitors.
Visiting Tropicana Field, Tip #5: Post-game at Ferg’s. Ferg’s is more or less the only tavern within walking distance of the Trop…it’s right across the street in fact, and you can park there fairly cheaply if you don’t have enough folks in your car for free parking. Ferg’s has decent wings and other food, inexpensive drinks (at least compared to inside the Trop), and it’s an indoor/outdoor bar with a great atmosphere. Most Rays fans always make Ferg’s part of the game day experience.
There you go; five useful Tropicana Field tips to make your Rays game experience a better one. The Rays are happy to get people into the ballpark, so they offer lots of deals on tickets and parking. All you need to worry about is what you’re spending your food dollar on.
Posted by Kurt Smith
Here is my best Tropicana Field seating tip: Don’t pay more than you have to.
OK, let me start this by saying I don’t necessarily condone moving into a seat that you didn’t pay for. It really isn’t fair to people who did pay for those seats, especially when they are the premium seats that cost a second mortgage.
However, I don’t recall ever minding someone keeping a good seat warm that belonged to me, so long as they get out of it immediately and didn’t break wind too much.
My philosophy on moving to a better seat is this: it’s okay so long as you don’t get greedy. If there’s 10,000 people in the ballpark, and you move from a seat that’s in the upper level in the outfield to an upper level seat behind home plate, that’s not going to bother me.
If I paid for the Legends seats at Yankee Stadium and someone who bought a bleacher seat distracts an usher enough to sit next to me, I might not be too happy about that. And there are some premium spots on the Tropicana Field seating chart.
Anyway, to my point. The Rays average about 15,000 a night for most games. When the ballpark is barely half full on a good night, and if I wasn’t planning to sit in a premium seat, I would just get the cheapest ticket in the ballpark (which, at present, is for the tbt* Party Deck in left field) and move somewhere behind home plate out of everyone’s way.
In my last trip to the Trop my seat was behind home plate anyway, and it wasn’t too expensive. But the three of us moved around and checked the ballpark out from different perspectives (all part of the job) with no problem whatsoever. By the end of the Tampa Bay loss we were sitting in seats that probably cost three times what I paid.
My guess is that by the second or third inning, you can improve your lie to a much better seat, so long as you’re not trying to get the field level seats in the infield. Just be ready to move if the nice usher asks you to.
More about Tropicana Field:
Posted by Kurt Smith
Tropicana Field doesn’t have a lot of retro classic ballpark feel going for it, which is what makes the Tropicana Field Party Deck special. Sorry, forgot the sponsor, the GTE Financial Party Deck.
The Rays, like most teams in baseball, have to offer special enticements to get people to sit in the worst seats in the venue. In this case those seats are in Party Deck, formerly known as the Beach.
These seats are in the highest level in left field; imagine the view from the Green Monster seats at Fenway without the prestigious experience (or the prestigious cost!). Not to mention that they’re bench seats, great for touching cheeks with your neighbor.
So what’s the advantage of the Party Deck? Well, they cost the same as the upper reserved tickets and are as such the cheapest seats in Tropicana Field. And being separate from the rest of the ballpark, chances are you won’t have to wait in line for your Cuban sandwich, always a plus.
But it’s a very different atmosphere…the concourse area behind the Party Deck is designed like Ybor City, with bright colors, gas lamp style lights and concession stands like the Ybor Cantina selling Cuban sandwiches. The bench seats give the area a bleachers feel, as if you were channeling your inner Wrigley Bleacher Bum.
In other words, the Tropicana Field Party Deck wouldn’t be the section of choice for most fans.
But here’s what’s cool about baseball. You still see people sitting in there. There seems to be a sense of belonging here. In the same way that the super-royal-Legendary-Lexus box seats in the newer ballparks give people a sense of belonging to an exclusive club distinguished entirely by income level.
Why pay $500 more to bond with someone, especially if they’re not even into baseball? It is, after all, still a ballgame.
I know which group I’d rather hang out with, especially if I’m picking up the tab for my ticket. A smartphone addicted salesman who is still hashing out major deals in the top of the sixth of a one-run game with two men on is not my type of ballgame companion.
College kids could go just about anywhere outdoors in Florida and have a better party atmosphere. People could network anywhere in the Ybor City area in Tampa or somewhere in downtown St. Petersburg. But for whatever reason, they’d rather go to a ballgame and sit miles away from the action in an indoor stadium with artificial turf.
That’s my kind of fan.
Posted by Kurt Smith
Like most ballparks, the Tropicana Field food menu is varied and goes well beyond hot dogs and popcorn, but the Trop is unique in that I’ve seen several items lately that I’ve never seen anywhere else…or more correctly, the popular items here aren’t featured much in most other ballparks.
Here are three food items that you could try when you talk about your visit to Tropicana Field; two of them are definitely unique to Tampa Bay baseball, and the Cuban Sandwich is pretty rare elsewhere too.
Tropicana Field Food, Tip #1: The Cuban Sandwich. You have several choices of Cuban sandwiches at the Trop; there’s the stand that actually is called “Cuban”, but if you don’t like things too obvious, you can get one at the Bay Grill or at Pipo’s Café. I don’t know if they’re all different, but it seemed to me like the Pipo’s edition was heftier.
The Cuban sandwich is something of a go-to food thing in Florida; it’s ham, pork, and Genoa salami with Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard on bread that is pressed to make the sandwich flat. Gooey Swiss makes any sandwich good.
In addition to the classic, the Cuban stands feature Cuban-style burgers with two patties added to the rest of the ingredients, or a veggie version with grilled vegetables and mozzarella. Remember, gooey cheese.
Tropicana Field Food, Tip #2: Pipo’s Chicken Paella. I picked this one simply because I’ve never seen paella at a ballpark before, and if they’re gonna serve wings and chili, I see no reason why paella wouldn’t be included as a “ballpark food you need to sit at a table to eat”.
Pipo’s Cuban cafeteria joint has been in the Pinellas County area since 1979, so they’re pretty well known around here. At the Trop they offer Cubans, fried plantains, and beef empanadas, but the paella is the standout thing. I tried the empanada and it wasn’t great, but it was easy to eat at least.
In case you didn’t know, chicken paella is a mixture of chicken, rice, peppers and onions, with other meats like sausage and ham. Something like jambalaya but without the Cajun flavoring. A nice filling thing and obviously, something different at a ballpark.
Tropicana Field Food, Tip #3: Ducky’s West Tampa Bowl. Ducky’s Sports Lounge is Evan Longoria’s Tampa restaurant; it’s known for “creative cocktails” and four lanes of mini-bowling. The menu at the restaurant features unusual bar food like roasted Buffalo cauliflower, duck fat fried sweet potato tots, and quinoa burgers.
The menu isn’t nearly as varied at the Trop outpost of Ducky’s located next to the outfield porch, but Ducky’s does have the “West Tampa Bowl” here…marinated pork with sautéed onions in a bowl of brown rice and black beans. All served with plantain chips and mango vinaigrette. Try listing those ingredients when telling people about your ballpark meal.
Ducky’s is also a spot for healthier stuff, incidentally; they have turkey wraps and California salads here too.
There you go…three foods to try at Tropicana Field that you probably won’t find at most ballparks. (I’ve never seen paella anywhere else, anyway.) But there’s also gourmet grilled cheeses, the amazing mac bat, the hefty grilled cheese burger and of course, Chicago-style dogs. Stay tuned.
Posted by Kurt Smith
Hopefully elsewhere on this site I’ve helped you with a few Tropicana Field tips. Worth the trip just to learn how to make your World Series cheesesteak Philly-style, right? Here are a few more things not to miss at your next Rays game:
Extra Tropicana Field Tips, #1: The Rays Tank. In the ongoing effort to add entertainment value to a ballpark that lacks retro feel value, the Rays collaborated with the Tampa Bay Aquarium to build the Rays tank, a 10,000 gallon tank in right field next to the Everglades BBQ restaurant.
People get in line to touch and feed the cownose rays swimming around happily, and you can watch the game while you’re petting the slimy critters. If that’s not baseball, I don’t know what the heck is.
Time in the area is limited and there is hand cleaner to use afterward. If you’re interested in the Rays Tank, it’s not far from the main rotunda entrance, and you should get in line early because the lines get long.
Extra Tropicana Field Tips, #2: The Mosaic Tiles Path. Splitting the parking lots east of the big white dome is a walkway of mosaic tiles, with over a million tiles depicting an aquarium of tropical fish. It’s a good reason to use the Rays parking east of the ballpark.
It’s captivating anytime, but it is especially cool at night when lit up by the streetlamps above it. And if the Rays pull off a victory, you can have a look at the orange lit dome over the ballpark from outside. A nice two-fer.
Extra Tropicana Field Tips, #3: Cuesta Ray Cigar Bar (And The View). The Cuesta Ray Cigar Bar is a room for cigar smokers, with its own humidor, a billiards table, TVs to watch the game on, lounge sofas and a full bar. A great idea, and it is the only place other than the ramps where smoking of any kind is allowed in the Trop, although there is no view of the game from the room.
But the coolest thing about the Cuesta is the patio outside, in an area where weather is often very nice, and a view of St. Petersburg that is boffo at dusk. If the game isn’t quite holding your attention, it’s a nice place to see a fine view.
That’s a few things to check out at the Trop; be sure you’re getting the best deal on the best seats with this handy little guide.
Posted by Kurt Smith
Tropicana Field doesn’t often get near the top of most fans’ lists of favorite ballparks. Indoor baseball, which was a novelty for a few minutes after the Astrodome opened, isn’t nearly as popular for a summer pastime as it once was. But I think some props for Tropicana Field are due.
Then there’s that artificial turf that once threatened to take over everywhere when baseball seemed to care far less about tradition (unlike today, he says sarcastically).
But as someone who has enjoyed a few games at Tropicana Field, in the ballpark’s defense I will say that it’s not all bad. In fact, it can be a perfectly nice place to see a ballgame for a few reasons.
The Trop has greatly improved in recent years. The Rays have done a lot to fix up the place and make it more appealing for fans, and they deserve a shoutout for that. It has bright blue seats, which blend well with the green turf on the field.
There is the the Porch in Center Field, a party area that replaced the Everglades BBQ, with drink rails and a full bar to watch the game party-style. The upper deck in the left field corner is a separate section called the tbt* Party Deck, and for lousy and mostly empty seats it’s got a neat bleachers feel to it.
The concourses, in this observer’s opinion, are the best in baseball. There’s more entertainment for the kids than I’ve seen in most ballparks, like interactive games, comic book style representations of baseball history, picnic areas, and of course, the Rays Tank…because what’s more baseball than feeding some fish and sliming up your hand in a tank in the outfield? I know that sounds sarcastic, but it really is fun.
Then there’s the huge statue of a Rays player sticking out of the wall to make a catch, appropriate for a defensive minded team and something that has to be seen to be believed.
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If you’re into partying with your baseball, Tropicana is great for that, too. There are plenty of great party areas, like the multi-leveled deck in center field and the 162 Landing and Papa John’s bullpen areas that are decorated accordingly. If you don’t mind the possibility of getting clocked by a foul ball (pay attention!), the view is great and the party is very affordable.
Then there are the cowbells that clang whenever an opposing player has two strikes on him. I don’t care if they are professionals, I know it gets under the skin of some players, which is exactly the point. The cowbells are a uniquely Tampa Bay thing (at least in baseball), and it wouldn’t work as well in an outdoor venue. When there’s a full house (which, granted, is rare), the cowbells can really rock the place.
The Rays have even manage to put a good team on the field fairly often, which can override the flaws of any venue. Despite one of the lower payrolls in the game, the Rays have been playing pretty well, contending for an AL East title quite a bit in recent seasons. Not an easy thing to do when sharing a division with the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox.
Best of all, the Trop is an affordable fun for the family deal. Between cheap tickets (no need to spring for great seats for a Rays game), free parking for cars with four or more, and being able to bring in your own food, the kids can have a memorable experience for a fraction of the cost of a day at Disney World, or any major attraction in Orlando, for that matter.
So while Tropicana Field may not score points for great views or neighborhood atmosphere or “retro feel”, in truth there’s no reason a baseball fan can’t enjoy a great day of baseball. One could argue that it’s even unique in its own way these days, with all of the retro-style ballparks across the country. The Trop is something different.
Enjoy it. At least you’re not sweating or ducking out of a thunderstorm. And get the most out of the experience when you read this handy little guide.
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