Less than a month after the Tampa Bay Rays made it known they would abandon their plans to build a stadium in Ybor City, the team announced its intent to reduce the seating at Tropicana Field to about 25,000 to 26,000 under a renovation plan aimed at improving fans’ experience.
In a statement, Rays President Matt Silverman said the plan would create a more “intimate” atmosphere.
These renovations mark our continued commitment to providing a first-rate fan experience at Tropicana Field. Together, in concert with the reduction in seating capacity, these investments will help create a more intimate, entertaining and appealing experience for our fans.
The team also announced plans to create more social gathering spaces with the creation of the Left Field Ledge, which will include premium seating for small groups, a full-service bar, ledge tables, and seated drink rails, as well as the elimination of the upper-deck 300 level.
Here’s a full look at the renovations planned for the Trop this season:
- Offering more social gathering spaces with the creation of a new common area, the Left Field Ledge.
- Redesigning and enhancing two primary fan entrances (Gate 4 and 5) to improve the flow of fans through increased access points and wayfinding features.
- Exchanging the current turf for a new Shaw Sports Turf product, designed to withstand the myriad events held at Tropicana Field throughout the year.
- Adding access from the Budweiser Porch and Ballpark & Rec areas to the Outfielder bar behind center field, as well as creating an external entrance to the food and beverage space.
- Redoubling the organization’s commitment to sustainable energy practices by replacing the existing field lights with energy-efficient LED lights, improving overall on-field playability and entertainment lighting throughout the ballpark.
- Elimination of the upper deck, which reconfigures the ballpark seating areas to include the first, mezzanine and second seating levels, as well as the new GTE Financial Party Deck. This will bring all fans closer to the field of play.
This marks the second consecutive year that the Trop has undergone renovations. Prior to the start of the 2018 season, the team created new concession concepts that reflected the surrounding community, while also renovating the team store, theRays Republic.
According to a team press release, the Rays have invested more than $50-million in Tropicana Field renovations since 2005, including more than $15-million in the last two years.
— One cannot help but wonder if this is a step toward a complete overhaul of Tropicana Field, which would be far cheaper than building a new facility? There is nothing structurally wrong with the stadium, which begs the question, might the team eventually propose a massive renovation of the stadium, something similar to the design of the $892-million proposed facility in Ybor City?
According to the terms of their use agreement, the Rays stand to collect 50% of the development rights at the Tropicana Field site should the team stay put, which includes the construction of a new facility on the Trop’s 86 acres.
— On a related note, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke with Janelle Irwin Taylor (WMNF) on the potential for a light rail system that would connect the proposed Brightline-Virgin Rail Service station in downtown Tampa to the Tropicana Field site, among other things.