There will be fewer seats and more social gathering spots at Tropicana Field when the Tampa Bay Rays open their 2019 season.
The team plans a half-dozen changes at the Trop, designed to create a “first-rate fan experience,” said Matt Silverman, Rays president, in a report posted on MLB.com. “Together, in concert with the reduction in seating capacity, these investments will help create a more intimate, entertaining and appealing experience for our fans.”
The Rays last month ended efforts to negotiate a new stadium site. The team’s lease at the Trop runs through 2027. The City of St. Petersburg is moving ahead with redevelopment plans for the 86-acre site, whether or not the Rays continue playing at the location.
The Rays have invested more than $50 million in Trop renovations since 2005. In the past two years alone, the Rays spent $15 million on updates, including last year’s overhaul of the food, beverage and retail experience.
This year’s renovations include a reduction in seating capacity. There currently are 31,042 seats and that will drop to between 25,000 to 26,000 seats when the work is completed. The team averaged 14,258 fans per home game in 2018, according to USA Today.
To bring fans closer to the field of play, the upper deck will be eliminated and the first, mezzanine and second seating levels will be reconfigured, and there will be a new GTE Financial Party Deck.
There will be a new Left Field Ledge, a social gathering spot with a full-service bar, ledge tables and seated drink rails.
Other renovations include:
- Redesigning and enhancing two primary fan entrances (Gate 4 and 5) to improve the flow of fans through increased access points and way-finding features.
- Exchanging the current turf for a new Shaw Sports Turf product, designed to withstand the myriad events held at Tropicana Field throughout the year.
- Adding access from the Budweiser Porch and Ballpark & Rec areas to the Outfielder bar behind center field, as well as creating an external entrance to the food and beverage space.
- Redoubling the organization’s commitment to sustainable energy practices by replacing the existing field lights with energy-efficient LED lights, improving overall on-field playability and entertainment lighting throughout the ballpark.
The Rays’ home opener will be March 28 against the Houston Astros.