Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, is home to the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, and the first official game there occurred on March 31, 1998, when the Rays hosted the Detroit Tigers. During the regular season, the seating capacity of Tropicana Field is 43,772. Look at the Tropicana Field seating chart for a detailed listing of the seating areas throughout the stadium.
The ballpark has a slanted roof that is not retractable and encloses the stadium completely. Just before the 2011 season, the Rays installed an AstroTurf playing surface with traditional dirt base paths in the infield. The Rays decided not to go with dirt cutouts for each base. In 1996, the Rays and stadium officials awarded naming rights to Tropicana Dole Beverages.
The Tampa Bay Rays get their name from the winged sea creatures which glide gracefully through the ocean. In July 2006, the team inaugurated a 10,000-gallon tank positioned behind the right-center field wall and filled with up to 30 live rays taken from the Tampa Bay. The tank, which the team calls the Rays Touch Tank, is under the supervision of the Florida Aquarium during games. The Florida Aquarium also has the year-round job of taking care of the health and safety of the rays. For about two hours during each game, the team allows groups of 50 fans at a time to observe the rays in the tank for a 10-minute period. For a $5.00 fee, the fans can buy food to feed to the rays, and the proceeds from these sales go to the Florida Aquarium and the Rays Baseball Foundation.
The Rays wanted to incorporate an element of Ebbet’s Field into the design of Tropicana Field. Ebbet’s Field was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913 to 1957, and was the site of many significant events in the history of Major League Baseball. The Rays secured the Ebbet’s Field blueprints, and then built a rotunda at Tropicana similar to the rotunda built at Ebbet’s Field in 1913. The rotunda makes a very impressive main entrance for Tropicana Field.
Fans who would like to see what the game looks like from the point of view of the center fielder in Tropicana Field, can visit the Everglades BBQ Smokehouse (formerly the Batter’s Eye Restaurant) just beyond the center field fence. The darkened windows of the restaurant actually form the batter’s center field background. These windows allow restaurant patrons to see out into the field, but the batter and fans throughout the stadium can’t see into the restaurant. This is a great place to enjoy a delicious meal either before or during the game. Fans can get to the BBQ Smokehouse by using the escalator in the rotunda of Gate 1.
Fans attending a Rays game should take some time to see the engrossing displays in the Ted Williams Museum and Hitter’s Hall of Fame located in center field. A bronze statue of Ted Williams greets visitors to this area, and then comes a wealth of information about Williams and other great hitters like Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio.