Procrastination. It's amazing I even graduated from college and finished my Plan II thesis. I'm sorry it's taken me over a week to get to my post on Tropicana Field, but I've been enjoying the break from traveling and had Ernst Leiss's bachelor party this weekend on Lake Travis. But for those few of you waiting on the edge of your seats to hear about my trip to Tampa/St. Petersburg, the time has arrived.
Location: The Trop is actually located in St. Petersburg, which is tough for the area because the majority of the population and the majority of the wealthier population reside in Tampa just across the bay. I arrived early Sunday morning and grabbed a rental car, for which they DIDN'T charge me an underage fee, so I finally caught a fiscal break on the trip. It was about a 20 minute drive to the stadium, and driving over the bridge from city to city was actually really pretty. But then I got to St. Petersburg. It's no wonder people are clamoring for a new stadium in Tampa, or at least one right next to the freeway, because the area around the stadium is pretty trashy. Since I got there early, I spent a good amount of time walking around, and there is literally nothing to say. Boarded up hotels, abandoned lots, etc. Just not even close to what I was expecting.
Ballpark: The park itself looks like it was built in the late 90s, which it was, and is the first 100% dome I've visited so far on the trip. It was pretty cool to finally see a game in a dome because I have so many fond memories watching the Astros at the Astrodome. Except for the 1998 playoffs against the Padres. That was miserable and I hate Jim Leyritz.
The park was built in 1998, and for a park that's only 12 years old, it's a surprise taxpayers want to build a new stadium. The recession has put a hold on any major plans, and it should have. The Trop was financed originally with $130mm of general obligation bonds and was later renovated later with 21% of the cost coming from the ballclub.
They play on field turf, which looks pretty worn to me. It looked real patchy from my original seat in the bleachers, but the rest of the stadium is pretty nice. The concourses are pretty dark, but they're big enough for the few fans that actually go to the games. I got to talking to a local guy and his young son who were watching batting practice and a softball home run derby before the game, and they had to leave before the game even started, so the guy gave me his ticket which was right behind the Rays dugout about 20 rows up. He started the conversation by remarking at how fast I could type on my Blackberry. I was honored, but I can't say I was surprised.
Other stadium named after an orange juice brand
Behind the plate
This is the third stadium that has tried to lay some sort of claim to Ted Williams, and I haven't even been to Fenway yet
Original seat with patchy field turf view
Scoreboard. Lots of corporate ads at the Trop
Food: The food selection at Tropicana Field was pretty good. They had Cubans, good hot dogs, a margarita stop, an Outback steakhouse stand where you could get steak and 'shrooms and/or a bloomin' onion if you really feel like dying earlier than you were meant to, nachos, Papa Johns, turkey burgers, garden burgers, fish tacos, and hummus. I opted for a souped up dog, and since I was driving, passed on the good beer selection that they had. The hot dog was $4 and the beer was $8 for a $12 SCPI.
Game: The Rays were playing former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and the Mariners, so my winning streak was definitely shaky through the 7th inning. Lee was throwing a gem and striking out Rays by the dozen. I got some good video of Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Ken Griffey, Jr. that I have posted to my Facebook profile and will link below.
I left early because I wanted to make my flight, and after leaving with the Rays down 1-0, the team put a couple of runs together and outlasted the Mariners 2-1. My record now looks real, real good and is certainly inflating my ego and sense of self-worth. Hopefully I can keep up my tear when I head to Denver this week.
Funny looking mascot
The contestants in the softball HR derby were hitting balls into the Party Deck way at the top of the picture
Cy Young winner, Cliff Lee
Summary: Poor location, OK stadium, good food, and a great ball club. I enjoyed the game, but would probably go elsewhere to see the Rays play again. The team is really good and I wouldn't be surprised if they wound up playing for the 'ship in October/November. Doesn't change the fact they already need a new stadium in a much better location.
Food: 8...its one saving grace.
Record: 13-4 (if you're keeping track, that's a 9-game win streak)
Giveaways: Still 5 (snuggie, Harwell memento, Rays team photo, Padres sticky calendar, Marlins mariachi).