My family and I drove from Orlando to St. Petersburg on Friday, July 25 to watch the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Bostn Red Sox in what we hope was not David Price‘s last game in a Rays uniform. I’m happy to report that Tropicana Field is a great place to watch the Rays play. I’ve had my issues with Tropicana Field in the past, but after last Friday, I can recommend a visit to the Trop for every Rays fan.
Tropicana Field is still an indoor stadium with worn-looking artificial grass. The seats slope away from the field, and the crowd noise still gets lost in the catwalks under the roof. However, since last season, the Rays have made some fan-friendly adjustments. Most notable is a path that enables fans to walk all the way around the outfield, and even stand out there with a beer to watch the game for awhile. The Rays removed some seats for this, but it was worth it. The walkway, known as “The Porch,” was a great place to meet fellow Rays fans and get a new perspective on the game.
My favorite feature at the Trop is the friendly staff. The ushers, ticket takers, concession workers and even security guards always seem to have a smile on their faces. They promptly answer your questions, and make you feel welcome. The food court and other offerings also add variety to the fan’s dining options. I started off my night with a bloomin’ onion from the Outback kiosk and followed it with a local craft beer.
Of course, the best thing about a visit to Tropicana Field is the chance to be surrounded by Rays fans. Rays fans significantly outnumbered Red Sox fans on Friday, judging by the jerseys I saw. We sat in section 300 right behind home plate, next to a fellow fanatic in a jersey ringing his Rays cowbell every time Price got two strikes on a batter. We discussed trade possibilities and potential locations for a new stadium. We high-fived each other after Desmond Jennings‘ home run and Evan Longoria‘s clutch double. Despite the Rays’ success over the last few years, being a Rays fan can sometimes be a lonely experience. You’re certainly not alone at the Trop.
Finally, give yourself plenty of time to get there. St. Petersburg is on the south end of a peninsula, and traffic through downtown Tampa on I-275, or on I-75 heading south, can slow to a crawl at rush hour. Complicating matters even more is that there is no good way around it. During the summer, intense rain squalls can contribute to slow traffic, even though the games won’t be rained out. The night I drove there was a crash on I-4 between Orlando and Tampa that stopped traffic cold. My drive to the stadium took three and a half hours. Unfortunately, in his first months in office, Florida Governor Rick Scottgave back the $2 billion dollars that the federal government allocated for high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa. Therefore, the interstate highways will be the only way to get to the games for the foreseeable future.
At the end of the day, it was all worthwhile to see David Price and the Rays beat the Red Sox, and shut up the obnoxious fan five rows behind me who yelled “Let’s Go Red Sox” loudly all night. If you’re reading this, here’s what I want you to remember about that night: scoreboard!