Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, is where the Tampa Bay Rays play. It is on all the lists of the worst baseball stadiums in America, usually at the bottom. If this is true, then it is iconic in its own twisted way. I needed to see it.
Understand that in my world, entitlement should be considered one of the seven deadly sins. Actually making them eight, along with gluttony, wrath, sloth, greed, lust, pride and envy, they were the pillars of early Christian morality. It's why the New York Yankees are considered godless, especially by Red Sox fans.
But we seem to believe we are entitled to a certain level of entertainment in these places, above and beyond the baseball, which in St Pete these days, is pretty good. So I went to the Trop trying to like it.
The concourse has a carnival atmosphere and a couple of disc jockeys. There is a mascot race, a large video message board in centerfield, an impressive variety of food, and a game host with an entourage of attractive women who dance and smile. All staples these days. There is also a 10,000 gallon aquarium full of cownose rays which you can actually pet. They're trying.
It was originally the Florida Suncoast Dome. It was built in attempt to steal a Major League Baseball team. The Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants both used it to get stadium deals of their own. It was designed by HOK out of Kansas City, the most famous stadium designers in the country. But unlike some of its more famous projects, Camden Yards in Baltimore and PNC Stadium in Pittsburgh, this just wasn't their best work.
Tropicana Field is the only remaining fixed roof stadium left in the major leagues. The rest went the way of the Metrodome, Kingdome and Astrodome. None were beloved. The Trop has a slanted roof. It's supposed to help make it hurricane-proof. It also saves a little money cooling the interior.
The place is drab. There are exposed concrete walls and the field surface looks like an old shag rug. It is difficult to see a fly ball against the beige colored roof. The lighting isn't great.
Then there are the four catwalks. These are suspended walkaways used to support the roof and the sound system. They are actually in play. There are different rules which apply to each. It would serve no purpose to try to explain them here.
Eight years ago Carlos Pena hit a pop up into the B-ring. The ball did not come down. He was awarded a double. Jonny Gomes once hit a ball into the same area. With the it stuck in the catwalk, Gomes legged out a triple, only to have the ball come loose. It was caught for an out.
Still, I refused to believe that they are trying to create a negative baseball atmosphere at the Trop. Until I heard this.
As part of the pre-game announcements, the team posts a phone number you can use to specifically and anonymously report people moving up into seats where they don't belong. This is a time honored baseball tradition and in Tampa, where attendance lags, they should be encouraging it. But there it was, the snitch line.
I went to the Trop trying to like it. I failed.