With just three days remaining until Opening Day, the Tampa Bay Rays unveiled several new features and promotions to boost the game day experience at Tropicana Field.
During Tuesday’s media event, Rays officials offered the local press a first look – and taste – into stadium upgrades and a myriad of new concession and promotional items. The festivities began with a video montage that William Walsh, chief business officer, said would set the tone for the upcoming season.
The video, displayed from the jumbotron just to the left of center field, also served as a showcase for the oft-maligned stadium’s most notable upgrade – a new digital sound system to replace the older analog version. The team installed new Mackie-brand speakers and high-frequency tweeters that produced significantly better sound quality than what fans heard when the Rays last took the field in October.
“So let me be honest,” began the loud, crisp voice of a sportscaster echoing from the speakers. “The Tampa Bay Rays are not interesting, or are they charismatic, in any way.”
Following that remark, from the start of last season, the video transitioned to rookie phenom Wander Franco belting a game-tying, three-run homer in front of a home crowd for his first major league hit. Another announcer then called the Rays “a legitimate powerhouse.”
Walsh said watching the video reminds him of the rollercoaster ride of the last few years for both the organization and its followers. Despite unprecedented challenges leading to changes in the way fans experience the game, he noted the one constant was the incredible success on the field.
“Just a couple of years ago, in 2020, we played a shortened season of 60 games in front of cardboard cutouts,” he said. “And we made it to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.”
Fans were back in the stands last season, albeit socially distanced in “pods” and wearing masks. Walsh noted the season was again a success, with the team winning 100 games and advancing to the playoffs for the third-straight year.
After rhetorically asking media members what is in store for 2022, Walsh relayed a popular phrase around Tropicana Field over the last few months.
“We’re bringing back the fun,” he said.
Walsh said the stadium would operate at full capacity from day one, and the team is bringing back several things that people may have taken for granted but are an integral part of the fan experience. That includes draft beer and fountain drinks, and fans can once again buy a souvenir cup and receive unlimited soda refills at self-service stations located throughout the ballpark. The team is also expanding its draft beer selection and offering discounts before and after games.
The team will again allow younger fans to run the bases on Sundays and offer free tickets to military service members, first responders, teachers and nurses. Another notable stadium upgrade is the creation of a new Rays Baseball Museum. Located in left field, Walsh said the museum highlights many aspects of the team’s history – including the Devil Rays era. The gallery is free and opens until the fifth inning of each game.
Walsh said the digital experience at the ‘Trop is also expanding, and attendees can order food and merchandise through their mobile devices.
“We now have over 15 locations around the building where you can order ahead from your phone,” he added. “Skip the line, grab your food, get back to your seat and watch the action.”
The team unveiled a bevy of new menu items from existing concession stands, including a Korean spiced chicken sandwich from Modern Bird, a foot-long tater tot from Pig & Potato and a jerk chicken sandwich from Beach Drive. Additionally, the team announced its latest local partner, Impasto, will offer its Italian-inspired wraps in the First Base Food Hall.
This year’s promotional schedule features 17 new and unique giveaways, including a Franco chain necklace on May 27, a Mike Zunino “Florida man” bobblehead on June 21 and a Brett Phillips Devil Rays basketball jersey on July 30. The team also announced local businesses could support the team with the free Rays Up Your Business Kit, which includes a window cling, flag, pocket schedules and other promotional items. Companies can visit RaysUpYourBusiness.com to claim the kit.
The 2022 season begins Friday at 3:10 p.m. as the Rays welcome the Baltimore Orioles to St. Petersburg.