Tag Archives: alternate routes to tropicana field
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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