At most ballparks you can find free parking somewhere, if you’re willing to walk at least a half a mile and/or risk getting your car towed. But for Tampa Bay Rays games, you need only find three other people to carpool with you–admittedly a challenge in a lesser venue featuring a team unlikely to be very competitive this year, but at least a viable option.
The Rays list this under “The Rays Go Green“, but apparently they’re most ecology-minded after getting out of church, since this option is widely available on Sundays, while for the rest of the week it’s the first 100 cars that arrive in the lot. The applicable lots are 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9; 6 and 7 are closest to the field and are off of 10th Street.
Not a bad deal, unless you’re one of those antisocial tightwad types who only goes to the game with other people only so that they’ll chip in on the parking. In that case, there are further lots that charge about half of what the Trop does, but it’s a bit of a hike.
The best thing is that the “premium game” parking rate is even waived for this–the Rays say “all other games”, so from that I assume that it applies to when the Yankees and Red Sox are in town. I probably shouldn’t mention this, since it may have been an oversight on their part. So shhhh…
Tropicana Field will never win any best ballpark awards, but it does have some things going for it, and one of them is that it won’t break your wallet in half. The upper reserved and upper box seats are perfectly reasonable, and if you’re early enough you can bring some friends and park for free. And you know the game won’t be rained out.
And if you’ve gotten those occasionally available all-you-can-eat seats in the tbt* Party Deck, your food and parking is paid for. That’s a significant chunk of change at the ballgame these days.
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Tropicana Field has so little going for it. It’s the only
non-retractable roof dome left in major league baseball, and the game is played
on artificial turf to boot. Now that the Rays have let Carl Crawford go, it’s
doubtful that the team will be contending like they did not long ago, leaving
fewer reasons to attend the place.
So the Rays, like most teams in baseball, have to offer
special enticements to get people to sit in the worst seats in the venue. In
this case those seats are called the tbt* Party Deck, formerly known as the
Beach. The tbt* stands for Tampa Bay Times, a free tabloid-style newspaper arm
of the St. Petersburg Times. I still have no idea what the asterisk means.
These seats are in the highest level in left field; imagine
the view from the Green Monster seats at Fenway without the prestigious experience.
They are also excluded from the rest of the ballpark, meaning people with other
tickets can’t get in and you can’t get out. Not to mention that they’re bench
seats, great for touching cheeks with your neighbor.
So what’s the advantage of the tbt* Party Deck? Well, they
cost the same as the upper reserved tickets and are as such the cheapest seats
in the Trop. But the Rays also hosted special events there in 2010, like
College Night on non-prime Friday games, where you get a ticket for $5 and
10-ounce beers for $1 with a valid college ID. Or Networking Nights on
Thursdays, where your company can sign up and then give employees a code word for
a ticket and some networking opportunities with Rays people. Groups can pay a flat fee and get
free beer and food for their group throughout the game.
The tbt* Party Deck also features the “All You Care To Eat”
nights, which seems to be the standard dangling carrot to get fans to sit in lousy
seats for a sub-.500 team. Only $55! Is that even a bargain at ballpark food prices?
The tbt* Party Deck seats are the worst seats in one of baseball’s
But you know what’s cool about baseball? You still see
people sitting in these seats. There seems to be a sense of belonging here. In
the same way that the super-royal-Legendary-Lexus box seats in the newer
ballparks give people a sense of belonging to an exclusive club distinguished
entirely by income level. Why pay $500 more to bond with someone? It is, after
all, still a ballgame.
I think I know which group I’d rather hang out with. A cell
phone addicted salesman who is still hashing out major deals in the top of
the sixth of a one-run game with two men on is not my type of ballgame
College kids could go just about anywhere outdoors in
Florida and have a better party atmosphere. People could network anywhere in
the Ybor City area in Tampa or somewhere in downtown St. Petersburg. But for
whatever reason, they’d rather go to a ballgame and sit miles away from the
action in an indoor stadium with artificial turf.
That’s my kind of fan.
The gummint folks in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region really should have listened to Major League Baseball back in 1990 when they were informed that they weren’t going to get a team anytime soon.
Instead in their eagerness they built the big air-conditioned Suncoast Dome anyway, hoping to lure away the Giants or White Sox. They failed at both, and by the time baseball finally awarded Tampa Bay an expansion franchise, Camden Yards had begun an old-fashioned ballpark boom and retractable roof technology had been made to work. As a result, Tampa-area baseball fans are stuck with one of the most unappealing venues in major league baseball, now called Tropicana Field.
But it is air-conditioned and dry.
I have been to Tropicana Field just once. At the time I thought the home of the Tampa Bay Rays to be the worst venue for baseball in North America. This was even after visiting Olympic Stadium in Montreal, in the Expos depressing final season before moving to Washington.
I still don’t particularly adore the place. It’s a dome with artificial turf, two major strikes, and the atmosphere is just really…what’s the word? Sterile? I remember thinking it was more suited for jai-alai than for baseball. But after researching reviews and message boards to put together the Tropicana Field guide, I’ve softened my stance somewhat.
I visited Tropicana Field in April, which of course in Tampa is a time for absolutely ideal baseball weather. This day the weather was particularly beautiful–70 degrees, a cloudless sky and no wind as we went indoors to see a baseball game. As much as I appreciate the favor of a Higher Being when I am experiencing a gorgeous day at the ballpark, the roof of the Trop pretty much negated it.
What I haven’t yet done is gone to the Trop in July or August, when triple-digit temperatures–and humidity!–become the norm in Florida. An uber-hot evening isn’t a deal-breaker that will keep me from attending a ballgame, but that doesn’t make it fun either. On top of that, mid-summer is hurricane season, and getting heavily rained on at the ball yard is about as depressing as it gets.
Unlike at the Trop, my first visit to the Metrodome was in the pouring rain. Being on a ballpark trip that had already lost one game to Mother Nature at the time, and being over a thousand miles away from home, for once I was grateful to be headed to a dome, knowing I wouldn’t miss a game. As distasteful as indoor baseball may be, there’s some things going for it.
And by the way, the home team at the Trop is a little better these days.
Most visitors to a ballpark are local people. Those who live in the St. Petersburg area know better than April vacationers do that Florida weather isn’t always ideal for baseball.
So until you live there or go to a game in July, quit yer griping.