is a domed stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida, which has been the home of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays since 1998. It also will serve as the host stadium for the St. Petersburg Bowl, an NCAA-sanctioned college football bowl game starting in December 2008.
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After Tampa was awarded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
and Tampa Bay Rowdies
in the 1970s, St. Petersburg decided it wanted a share of the professional sports scene in Tampa Bay
. It was decided early on that they would attempt to attract Major League Baseball
. Possible designs for a baseball park
or multi-purpose stadium
were proposed as early as 1983. One such design, in the same location where Tropicana Field would ultimately be built, called for an open-air stadium with a circus tent-like covering. It took several design cues from Royals Stadium
, including fountain
s beyond the outfield wall. 
Ultimately, it was decided that a stadium with a fixed permanent dome was necessary for a prospective major league team to be viable in the area, due to its extremely hot, humid summers and frequent thunderstorms. The ballpark began construction in 1986
in the hope that it would lure a Major League Baseball team to the Tampa Bay area.
The stadium, built originally as the Florida Suncoast Dome
, was first used in an attempt to entice the Chicago White Sox
to relocate if a new ballpark were not built to replace the aging Comiskey Park
. The governments of Chicago
eventually agreed to build a New Comiskey Park (now known as U.S. Cellular Field
) in 1989
The stadium was finished in 1990
, but still had no tenants. The venue made St. Petersburg a finalist in the MLB expansion for 1993, but they lost out to Miami
. There were rumors of the Seattle Mariners
moving in the early part of the 1990s, and the San Francisco Giants
came close to moving to the area, with Tampa Bay investors even announcing they were in a press conference in 1992
. However, the sale was blocked under pressure from San Francisco
officials and the then-owner of the Florida Marlins
, Blockbuster Video
Chairman H. Wayne Huizenga 
. A local boycott of Blockbuster Video stores occurred for several years thereafter.
The Suncoast Dome did manage to gain a tenant in 1993 when the Tampa Bay Lightning
made the stadium its home for three seasons. In the process, the Suncoast Dome was renamed the Thunderdome
. Because of the large capacity of what was basically a park built for baseball, several NHL
attendance records were set during their time there 
. The Tampa Bay Storm
of the AFL
also played there during the Thunderdome era, and set attendance records for that league as well 
Finally, in 1995
, the dome got a baseball team when MLB expanded to the Tampa Bay area. Changes were made to the stadium and the name, which was changed due to the sale of naming rights
to Tropicana Products
, thus renaming it Tropicana Field in 1996
. The completion of the Ice Palace
in downtown Tampa permitted "The Trop" to be vacated for preparation for its intended purpose, as the Lightning and Storm moved into the facility that was built for them. A $
70 million renovation then took place — to upgrade a stadium that had cost $130 million to complete only eight years earlier. Ebbets Field
was the model for the renovations, which included a replica of the famous rotunda that greeted Dodger
fans for many years. The first regular season baseball game took place at the park on March 31
, when the Devil Rays faced the Detroit Tigers
, losing 11–6.
Although Tropicana was purchased by PepsiCo
in 1998, PepsiCo did not elect to make any changes to Tropicana's naming rights.
The park was initially built with an AstroTurf
surface, but it was replaced in 2000
by softer FieldTurf
, becoming the first major professional facility to use it. A new version of FieldTurf, FieldTurf Duo, was installed prior to the 2007
season. Unlike other artificial turf fields used in baseball, the field at Tropicana has full dirt basepaths and pitching mound as opposed to having only dirt "sliding pits" around the bases. Since Tropicana Field does not need to convert between baseball and football, sliding pits, designed to save re-configuration time, were unnecessary. On August 6
, the dirt warning track was replaced by brown-colored stone filled FieldTurf Duo.
Tropicana Field underwent a further $25-million facelift prior to the 2006
season. Another $10 million in improvements was added during the season. In 2006
, the Devil Rays added a live Cownose ray
tank to Tropicana Field. The tank is located just behind the center field wall, in clear view of the play on the field. People can go up to the tank to touch the Rays. Further improvements prior to the 2007
offseason, in addition to the new FieldTurf, include additional family features in the right field area, the creation of a new premium club, and several new video boards including a new 35ft. x 64ft. (10.5m x 19.4m) Daktronics
LED main video board that is four times larger than the original video board. The 2007 renovation also added built-in high-definition television
capabilities to the ballpark, with FSN Florida
airing at least a quarter of the schedule in HD in 2007 and accommodating the new video board's 16x9 aspect ratio.
On September 3rd, 2008, in a game between the Rays and the New York Yankees
, Tropicana Field saw the first offical use of instant-replay in the history of Major League Baseball
. The disputed play involved a home run hit above the left field foul pole by Yankee Alex Rodriguez
. The ball was called a home run on the field, but was close enough that the umpires opted to view the replay to verify the call. 
The most recognizable exterior feature of Tropicana Field is the slanted roof. It was designed at an angle to reduce the interior volume in order to reduce cooling costs, and to better protect the stadium from hurricane
s. The main rotunda, on the east end of the stadium, resembles the Ebbets Field
rotunda on the interior.
The walkway to the main entrance of the park features a 900ft.-long (272 m) ceramic tile
mosaic, made of 1,849,091 one-inch-square tiles. It is the largest outdoor tile mosaic in Florida, and the fifth-largest in the United States. 
The primary 100-level concourse is at street level along the outfield, and is elevated along the infield, accessible via elevators, escalators and stairs. The 200-level loge box concourse is further separated, and is carpeted, as it includes the entrances to the luxury suites. The 300-level concourse is the highest of the concourses.
Seating and Amenities
The seating is arranged with odd sections on the left field side, and even sections on the right field side. 100-level seating wraps around the entire field, broken at center field by the Batter's Eye Restaurant, with loge boxes along the infield from foul pole to foul pole. 200-level seating is the press boxes along the foul lines, broken by the press box behind home plate, with the luxury boxes directly behind and above them. 300-level seating wraps around the infield along the lines, and also features a small-capacity "party deck" above the left field outfield seats. Rows are lettered starting closest to home plate and rise as you move further away.
There are a total of 63 luxury suites. 48 are accessible from the 200-level, while the other 15 are located on the 100-level.
The Home Plate Club, sponsored by Kane's Furniture until 2007, features its own entrance, recliner seats and a premium buffet with in-seat service. The second club section, the Whitney Bank Club, is along the first-base side in the 100 section, at the Loge Box level. It features its own premium buffet and premium seating.
Field-level party sections were installed in the corners in 2006. The left field party section is the "Corona
Beach Bar", while the right field party section is the "Checkers
Bullpen Cafe". Before 2008, tickets to the Checkers Bullpen Cafe included a free meal at the Checkers kiosk immediately adjacent to the section. As of 2008, both the Corona and Checkers party sections feature all-you-can-eat buffet
In 2008, the Rays also set aside a section of the Press Boxes on the right field side as an all-you-can-eat buffet section with typical ballpark fare. It is usually available for group parties, but it is available for individual ticketing on select dates.
There are two sit-down restaurants at Tropicana Field: the Center Field Brewhouse (located on the outfield 100-level concourse; formerly sponsored by Budweiser
) and the Batter's Eye Restaurant (accessible via escalator/elevator from the main rotunda). The Center Field Brewhouse has typical restaurant fare, while the Batter's Eye has a premium buffet. The Batter's Eye is also available for group parties.
Cigar Bar is located across from the Batter's Eye, and offers a large selection of cigar
s, many produced by a company founded in Tampa. It is the only indoor location at Tropicana Field where smoking is permitted.
In addition to various generic vendors and Checkers, there are also concession stands for Outback Steakhouse
(including their famous "Bloomin' Onion
" appetizer) and Papa John's Pizza
. Both Checkers and Outback are Tampa Bay-based establishments. To compete with established stadiums' hot dog traditions, the Trop introduced the "Sting 'Em" Dog
in 2007. This consists of a regular hot dog topped with chili and cheese.
It was renamed "The Heater" in 2008.
Ted Williams Museum/Hitters Hall of Fame
In 2006, the Ted Williams Museum/Hitters Hall of Fame
was moved to the facility after its original facility in Hernando, Florida
, went bankrupt. A new 7,000-square-foot upstairs wing was opened in 2007, which now houses the exhibits on Ted Williams' careers both with the Boston Red Sox
and the United States Marine Corps
during World War II
and the Korean War
, and the monuments to the members of the Hitters Hall of Fame complete with memorabilia, with donated authentic memorabilia wherever possible and many of Williams' own personal mementos from his career and post-playing life. Williams did not induct himself into his own Hitters Hall of Fame, and was inducted in 2003 only after he died.
The museum is open during game days, opening at the same time as the park and closing after the seventh inning with the concession stands. Admission is free, and the museum is open to all ticketholders.
Among the most cited criticisms about the stadium are the four catwalk
s that hang from the ceiling. The catwalks are part of the dome's support structure, and also support the lighting and speaker systems. Because the dome is tilted toward the outfield, the catwalks are lower in the outfield.
The catwalks are lettered, with the highest inner ring being the A Ring, out to the furthest and lowest, the D Ring. The A Ring is entirely in play, while the B, C and D Rings have yellow posts bolted to them to delineate the relative position of the foul lines. Any ball touching the A Ring, or the in-play portion of the B Ring, can drop for a hit or be caught for an out. The C and D Rings are out of play; if they are struck between the foul poles, then the ball is ruled a home run
A few hits have been lost as a result of the catwalks. For example, Devil Ray Jonny Gomes
was called out during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays
on May 12
, when a ball he hit landed in the B Ring and rolled off to be caught by Toronto shortstop John McDonald
. By the time it was caught, Gomes was already headed for home plate. Although Rays manager Joe Maddon
tried to argue that it should have been at least a ground rule double
since it stayed in the B Ring for a while before coming loose, umpires eventually ruled against the Devil Rays and called Gomes out.
On May 26
, Carlos Peña
hit a pop-fly to center field that likely would have been caught by Texas Rangers
center fielder Josh Hamilton
. The ball instead hit the B ring catwalk and did not come down. Peña was mistakenly given a home run, but after deliberation the umpires awarded him a ground rule double
. This was the second time this had happened, as José Canseco
hit a ball that stuck in the same catwalk on May 2
On September 15
, Jason Bay
of the Boston Red Sox
hit a long and high fly ball to dead center field which hit the C ring catwalk, one of the lower two catwalks in the dome. Immediately, the ball was ruled a home run by the umpires on the field (properly, per the ground rules of play at Tropicana Field 
Drab interior environment
Another criticism of the stadium is the drab interior environment; although the stadium is located in a subtropical climate
, one cannot tell from inside the dome. The interior has been compared to a large warehouse
. However, since it was designed specifically with baseball in mind, it is somewhat smaller and the atmosphere is somewhat more intimate than in other domed stadiums.
The current Rays' Stuart Sternberg
-led ownership group has invested several million dollars in recent years to add various ameneties and decorations including a larger scoreboard, video wall, catwalk sleeves, an outfield touch-tank featuring cow-nose rays
, and other miscellaneous improvements to make the facility more attractive and "fan friendly". 
The dome was built on the former site of a coal gasification
plant and in 1987, hazardous chemicals were found in the soil around the construction site. The city spent millions of dollars to remove the chemicals from the area. 
It is also widely criticized as being located quite far away from the major population base in Tampa
- St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm
- Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Rays Ballpark, planned new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays expected to open in 2012
- The original Tropicana Field
- ON BASEBALL; A Not-So Moving Story - New York Times
- 25,945! An NHL-Record Crowd Cheers The Lightning On To Victory
- Tampa Bay Storm
- The Official Site of The Tampa Bay Rays: Ballpark: Tropicana Field
- Ace leads Tampa Bay to the best record in the majors
- Title Unavailable
- Tampabay: No stadium in on-deck circle
- Costs triple for cleanup of soil at dome