Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mike's Review: Tropicana Field

We spent the day prior to the game exploring St. Petersburg, and with the great weather I wasn't happy about going to an indoor stadium. The air conditioner immediately convinced me otherwise, not to mention everything the Rays do to make their ballpark a nice place to watch a ballgame.

The Ballpark
I can't tell you the Rays play at a beautiful ballpark, and I'm not going to rave about the architecture and the views. However, I will say that they've done everything (else) right to make Tropicana Field a fun place. We entered through a large open rotunda behind center field. To the right, the Centerfield Street Brewhouse was lit up and crowded. They had food and a couple bars, surrounded by big screen TVs to watch baseball from around the league (or on this particular night, to watch the Orlando Magic). To the left of the rotunda the Rays themselves swim around in a tank right up against the field. Fans surround the tank on three sides to pet the team's namesake, and on the fourth side is the outfield wall. Straight in front of the rotunda is a bar and restaurant located inside the batter's eye. Through the tinted windows private parties can watch the game, and it's open to any fan when it is not reserved.
Walking around the field in both directions, you'll find a huge variety of food options, from the basic ballpark hotdog to an Outback Steakhouse - you can even enjoy a Bloomin' Onion from your seats on the field (and we did). The park has some nice distinguishing features. Up the left field foul line is a seating area filled with tables and chairs, and a buffet area for private parties. This picnic area is right against the field, on field level.
The Trop has some distinguishing features that aren't the best, though. The bullpens are located on the field, which increases the amount of foul territory with an obstacle course for players tracking down fly balls. Of course, I have to mention the intricate systems of catwalks covering the domed stadium. They have a habit of getting in the way, and there needs to be a whole set of rules just to handle them (and really small mini-foul poles hanging off of them, which looks kind of funny). They do a nice job with graphics and animations, though, with a nice big scoreboard out in right field, and strobes all over the stadium, attached to the catwalks.
3 / 5

The Game and Fans
We saw another exciting game, with the tying run on board in the bottom of the ninth inning. Jered Weaver outpitchted James Shields early, but it was always a close game. Ben Zobrist hit a solo home run in the 8th inning to narrow the Angels lead to 4-3. Even with plenty to cheer for and decent attendance, Rays fans seemed strangely quiet. I found myself cheering louder than a lot of the fans around me after Zobrist's late inning homer, and he's just on my fantasy team. I guess Tampa Bay fans have only been fans for about a year, we can give them time.
2 / 5

Tropicana Field is located right in downtown, walking distance from the pier. St. Petersburg is a very pretty city, right on the water with beautiful weather. We took the Bay Walk along the marina to a couple bars and restaurants located at the end of the pier before the game and enjoyed the views. It's a nice city to walk around and explore.
Neighborhood: 3.5 / 5
City: 3 / 5

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