Following news that the Tampa Bay Rays will reduce the seating capacity of Tropicana Field in 2019, the team announced the stadium will become the first cashless sports facility in North America.
According to the press release below, Tropicana Field’s concessions, team stores, box office, and all other points–of–sale will operate cash–free in 2019:
The Tampa Bay Rays announced today that, in collaboration with hospitality partner Levy and analytics and emerging tech firm E15, Tropicana Field will become the first cash–free sports venue in North America.
Tropicana Field’s concessions, team stores, box office, and all other points–of–sale will operate cash–free in 2019. The move follows extensive pilot testing engineered and led by E15 at Tropicana Field and venues nationwide to measure the effects of cash–free transactions. These tests found that transitioning to cash–free environments results in an average transaction time of up to half that of traditional environments that accept cash, resulting in faster moving lines and increased fan satisfaction.
Forms of payment accepted at concession stands and retail stores inside the ballpark will include major credit cards, Rays gift cards, NFC mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and Season Ticket Holder Rays Cards. For fans without electronic forms of payment, cash can be exchanged for gift cards in any amount at all retail locations and in $10 or $20 increments through roaming gift card vendors. Tropicana Field’s parking operations will also be cash–free, as they were for the 2018 season.
“We have made significant investments each year to improve the ballpark experience for fans, including an overhaul of our approach to food and beverage since the beginning of our partnership with Levy,” said Rays Vice President of Strategy & Development William Walsh. “This change will increase speed of service and reduce lines throughout the ballpark.”
“Throughout our testing last season at Tropicana Field, we saw thatfans quickly adapted to cash–free environments and loved the resulting benefits to the game–day experience,” said Jaime Faulkner, CEO of E15. “By offering fans a variety of forms of electronic payment, coupled with the ability to exchange cash for gift cards, we can ensure that fans are having frictionless experiences and getting back to enjoy the game.”
Fan Fest on February 9 will be the first cash–free event at Tropicana Field in 2019. A free event, fans are invited to shop at the Rays Baseball Foundation’s Yard Sale, as well as the Rays Republic Team Store and auxiliary shops during Fan Fest. Several concession stands will also be open and will accept digital payments.
Concerned fans have been quick to push back on the new policy. And while the team intends to create a frictionless experience that allows fans to get back the game, the decision ignores how restrictive this can be for low-income households that do not have access to credit cards or are not in a position to load cards with cash they won’t get back later.
Or, in the words of John Romano (Tampa Bay Times), “Going cashless at Tropicana Field carries the unmistakable whiff of arrogance.”
It’s a bold idea, and the Rays say plenty of research indicates it will lead to a better, more streamlined fan experience at the stadium. That may be true in theory. And it may be the wave of the future.
But it ignores the reality that a lot of people, for whatever reason, prefer to use cash. Even worse, this unilateral decision carries an unmistakable whiff of arrogance.
We know what’s best for you.
Essentially, that’s what the Rays are saying. And that’s a horrible message to send when you’re in the business of trying to attract more customers. Especially when you’re the worst in the league at that skill.