I remember in college learning about parents that aren’t willing to acknowledge challenging behavior that their children may be creating in any given classroom. Their child may bully another student or toilet paper the bathroom, and then deny that their son of daughter could possibly do something like that when confronted with the reality that Johnny may be a challenging or polarizing figure in class. Does that make them horrible parents? Certainly not, after all no one wants to hear that their child is making it hard on the other classmates to do their job. Because those behaviors are never fully acknowledged though, Johnny keeps making the same poor decisions and the class suffers. Well friends, the Trop is Johnny. And those of us not willing to accept that the Trop is very flawed are the parents that aren’t willing to accept Johnny as the class, urm…you get the idea.
As the parents of Johnny, we defend the Trop the best we can. We say things like, “Stale environment? Pfft! At least we’ve got a roof over our heads and air conditioning!” or “I call the (catwalk) rings Wrigley’s Ivy.” We pat Johnny on the back and reassure him everything is “OK” however the bathroom keeps getting peppered with wet paper towel wads and Johnny never fully gets the support he may be craving. Likewise, we keep ignoring that the Trop has issues, and twenty years of neglect pass in the blink of an eye. Inevitably someone steps out and calls the Trop what it is, an aging facility with issues both large and small, and we step up and defend the Trop without acknowledging those issue because we want to hear that Johnny is being an urm…you get the idea.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be the first to admit that the very public ramblings of Stu Sternberg come off as sounding like the annoying whining of a petulant tween who isn’t getting what she/he wants. In the words of the immortal Gorilla Biscuits, “It’s your big mouth and it’s getting on my nerves, you know I wish you’d just shut it up.” However, I’d be a fool if I didn’t admit that Stu’s public musings, though annoying, are valid. The Rays do deserve something better. The sooner the we stop defending the Trop to the hilt, the better. Repeat it with me: I love the Trop, but it indeed has flaws, both major and minor.
So, what exactly is wrong with the Trop?
Back in 2009, a design firm was hired to conduct a study on the Trop. Mind you, this study was conducted after the Rays decided not to pursue the proposed waterfront stadium that would have been built where Al Lang Stadium currently stands. Nevertheless, the purpose of the study was to see how much a full renovation of the Trop would cost in order to upgrade it from a B facility to an A+ facility. In a 2009 St. Petersburg Times article on the study, it was reported that:
“The seats are too narrow, views of the field are obstructed throughout the stadium, and the closed stadium contains no natural light, the study says. The concourse is too narrow and dead-ends, confusing fans and eliminating opportunities for socializing. Some seats are poorly located, so fans must turn to follow action on the field.
The press box, nestled between pricey club suites, takes up too much prime real estate, according to the report. There aren’t enough bathrooms or storage nooks, and the design makes cleanup too complicated. Roof catwalks obstruct some views of the field.
The report calls for removing several rows of seats in each lower deck section and at least five rows of seats in many upper deck sections to improve field visibility. That would eliminate nearly 2,000 lower deck seats, leaving a higher proportion of seats in the upper decks, where tickets are cheap and fans are far from the field.
Nearly 1,800 seats would also be removed in the outfield to create a continuous view of the field from the concourse.
The suite and club level would be replaced with larger suites. The press box would be relocated to the upper deck.
In all, the seating changes would remove at least 7,000 of Tropicana Field’s 43,000 seats.
The costliest change would require removing the dome roof and replacing it with a retractable fabric roof, along with glass or transparent panes in the exterior wall to bring in more natural light. These features add up to at least $221 million, or almost half of the total renovation cost.”
In the end, a complete renovation would cost $470 million, some $20 million more than the proposed waterfront stadium. The St. Petersburg Times article did not mention other troublesome concerns such as parking and location. However, the ABC commission conducted a study of its own, and found that the location of the Trop was not conducive to sustaining a team. According to the study:
“A projected population of 1,181,714 people will live within a 30 minute drive of Tropicana Field in 2013. Those numbers jump to 1,543,047 by 2035. There are approximately 123,032 households with an income greater than $75,000. Approximately $1.55 billion dollars are spent on entertainment yearly. Roughly 217,756 fans within a 30 minute driving radius of Tropicana Field attended Rays games in the last 12 months. Finally, there are approximately 12,747 firms with more than 10 employees within a thirty minute driving radius of Tropicana Field.”
That is to say, if the Trop was located in a central location, in an area that was easily accessible to a greater number of fans, and that area had a better potential of economic and population growth, then it would be feasible to spend the money to renovate the aging facility.
In a nutshell, both studies found that there are a lot of things wrong with our Johnny, and it would cost a crap load of money to renovate poor lil Johnny in order to fix all of the troublesome concerns. However, you could spend all of the money in the world to fix up the Trop, but it wouldn’t mean a damn thing because of the location. Oof.
Coming tomorrow, Part Three: If You Build It, They Might Come?