I have long been one of those fans who have accepted Tropicana Field for what it is – an aged stadium that was behind the times by the first pitch in club history. It’s most redeeming quality has always been that it is air-conditioned with a roof so there is never a threat of weather cancelling a game or being deterred from the game by 98 degree temperatures in the summer time. I can recall one game back in 2002 or 2003 when a severe thunderstorm threatened the area so badly that the club actually gave free tickets to another game to the 4,000 or so of us that made it out to that game despite the storm. Toward the end of the Naimoli area, the place was in dire need of a facelift and once ownership changed hands, the place got that much-needed facelift. The concourses were livened up, the Rays Tank was put in place, the new scoreboard was added, the entire place was pressure-washed, parking was made free for those in carpools, and permission was granted to bring your own food in. Anyone who has spent even the last seven years following the club would have to agree the atmosphere at Tropicana Field is much improved from where it was in 2003 whether the team was successful on the field or not. All that said, you can only polish a turd so much.

I grew up in Houston watching hundreds of games in the Astrodome so Tropicana Field has never been “that bad” to me. The Astrodome was the same drab place Tropicana Field was in the earlier part of the past decade except it lacked catwalks and felt much more cavernous than Tropicana Field does, even on its emptiest of days. Throughout my own personal travels as well as business travels, I have taken in games at the following stadiums:

  • Baltimore Memorial Stadium
  • Camden Yards
  • Old Yankee Stadium
  • Fenway Park
  • Citizens Bank Park
  • US Cellular Field
  • Wrigley Field
  • Turner Field
  • Astrodome
  • Minute Maid Park
  • Coors Field
  • Rangers Stadium
  • Petco Park
  • Dodger Stadium
  • Angels Stadium
  • Rogers Centre
  • SunLife Stadium
  • Great American Ballpark
  • Chase Field

All of them are great parks in their own right. Petco has an amazing downtown setting and the public park in the outfield is a nice touch. Chase Field is also downtown, has that pool deck, and does a great job of protecting you from the brutal Phoenix summer weather. Rogers Centre plays in the shadow of the CN Tower and is easily within walking distance from the business center of Toronto. Fenway, Wrigley, and old Yankee Stadium were more known for their mystique than their actual features because truth be told, they’re not great places. Wrigley has obstructed seats in the third level, tiny bathroom, and impossible concourses, as does Fenway. Yankee Stadium upper deck seats, the ones up toward the top felt like they were in New Jersey or Connecticut. Additionally, only in a place with perfect weather such as Los Angeles can a jewel like Dodgers Stadium withstand the test of time or an original cookie cutter all-purpose stadium like Angels Stadium be converted into a rather pleasant baseball-only stadium.

Despite all of those trips, I was never quite bothered by what Tropicana Field lacked because it was still home to my favorite baseball team. Tickets are cheap, weather is always good under the roof, and my only major complaint is the location of the stadium because it is two hours from my driveway to the parking lot without any traffic hold-ups.  After a trip to Citi Field this past weekend, all of that changes.  I was in New York this past weekend to help run the NFBC events that Fanball hosts as well as participate in the Tout Wars drafts for the fourth straight season which were both hosted by Citi Field. What an amazing stadium! I got to walk the place a bit and even from the 400 level, you feel like you are right on top of the action; the same cannot be said for anyone sitting in the double-lettered seats of the 300 level in Tropicana Field. The park has outstanding sight lines and the outfield fences are anything but symmetrical. The parking lots are not that big but the park is right off the 7 Train so fans have the convenience of taking public transportation to and from the game – an alien concept to most Floridians. The concourse areas in Citi was quite spacious and their luxury upgrades are amazing. I spent most of my time in the Caesar’s Lounge area on the fourth floor that has TVs everywhere the eye can see and 3 full bars ready to service patrons in its 12,000 square foot area. Simply put, Citi Field has me green with envy for a new park in the Tampa Bay area and like Veruka Salt, I want it now!

Will that make me stop coming to Rays games any time soon? Hell no it won’t! It will make me push even harder for a new stadium though because it took visiting my 18th different stadium for me to finally say enough is enough for Tropicana Field. Ownership has done an admirable job fixing up the mess they inherited but there is nothing left to do with the place outside of turing the batter’s eye restaurant into a Mons Venus remote location. The only aura and mystique the stadium has is a reputation of empty seat and losing teams which is rather fitting for what will be the worst ballpark in all of the major leagues once the Marlins move into their new home.


About Jason Collette

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