After an eight hour stay at the Travelodge in Perri, GA and a quick stop in Ocala, FL to see some of Keke’s family, we were on our way headed towards Tampa/St. Petersburg. Traffic bunched up as we got closer into the city, but everything still moves pretty well, and we arrived at Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays, on time.
One initial thing we loved about the stadium is the parking situation. There is a massive lot surrounding the stadium, which is a huge perk for me. As a father and husband, my family’s safety is top priority and the idea of parking three blocks away from a stadium in a neighborhood I know nothing about doesn’t appeal to me. It also typically creates a great tailgating environment. I didn’t see anyone taking advantage of that, and am not sure if Tampa even allows for it in the lot (some places don’t). Come to think of it, I think the parking lot had diagonal/one way parking, which may not leave enough space for tailgating.
The Trop, as it is nicknamed, is not the oldest stadium in the league, but it feels like it. It is the last of the dying breed of domed stadiums. We Minnesotans know all about domed stadiums as we enjoyed baseball in a giant tent called the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome for years. The last home opener I went to at the Dome had six inches of snow outside. When there are six inches of snow outside baseball in a giant tent is good. Baseball in a tent is also good when you play in hot, humid South Florida.
As much as I like the idea of indoor baseball in Florida, The Trop isn’t the place for it, and all of Tampa knows it. They have been looking for a spot for a new stadium for some time, and I hope they get it. The Rays put a great product on the field, but need a desirable venue to complete the game experience. Since we are used to the dome concept and we love the game, it doesn’t bother us, but I can see why others would rather not visit the building.
The crowd for our game amounted to about 9,000 people and it was quiet in the stadium. That said, there were real fans there that cared about the team and the game. I spoke with a man that used to work with the Rays, and he told me that they have made a number of improvements to the stadium over the years, with the most significant being to remodel it to have more open concourses, but they still need a new stadium in the end. Though it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles, we found it to be a pleasant place to see a game.
They have some areas for kids, including a free coloring area, but the biggest attraction is the aquarium where you can pet a Ray (the fish, not the player that would be weird). Evidently, you wiggle your index and middle finger in the water to mimic bait fish and they come up to them, then see that your fingers are not actually something they can eat, then as they swim by you can feel their backs. I am told that it feels like wet velvet. We tried it and were unsuccessful.
A hidden treasure in the stadium is the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame. I wasn’t exactly clear on why the museum was there and clicking the link for the website takes you to a different page. If you click the link for the site’s contact page, it will bring you to the site, but there isn’t an “about” section that explains why Ted Williams, who never played for the Rays franchise, has a museum there. I do know he was an avid fisherman, so maybe that is why it is in the area.
Regardless of the why or the where of the museum, it is wonderful. You’ll need to ask for directions to it as it is hard to find; the entrance is in the back of the souvenir shop. I couldn’t find it at first, but did eventually figure it out. Once inside you’ll see wonderful pieces of baseball history; jerseys, pictures, gloves, bats, etc from many of the all-time greats. It is wonderful, and was worth the price of admission to the game on its own.
Another thing we liked about the stadium was the food. There weren’t as many food options as newer stadiums have, but what we had was fantastic. Keke and I shared a short rib grilled cheese with creamy horseradish dressing. We loved it, and I am upset about the fact that I may never go to another Rays game, and thus may never get to have the sandwich again; the struggle is real.
As mentioned in a previous post, we want to try a local beer in each stadium. You can’t get much more local than the Green Bench 4 Seam Lager as it is brewed exclusively for sale at Tropicana Field. It was good.
As for the game, the Rays did their part as one of baseball’s best teams, beating up on the Orioles 7 – 1. We loved our experience there, and regardless of the stadium situation, we can see why it’s fun to be a Ray’s fan.