Last Updated: April 27th, 2022 by Kristen Douglas
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The Upper Deck Seats are Really Up There – via Flickr user arctic_whirlwind
Tropicana Field, AKA “The Trop”, opened its doors for baseball in 1996. What you may not know is that the dome was originally opened in 1990 and has been home to a total of 16 different sports and competitions throughout the years. Baseball fans love to hate Tropicana Field but despite rumors of building a new place it still stands. The Rays have a solid fan base and because of their location in Florida, their opponents like the Yankees and the Red Sox also have a solid fan base of retirees who have moved south for their golden years. They don’t normally sell the place out so it’s a good stadium to see an American League game without blowing your budget and the air conditioning is nice, even the most hardcore outdoor stadium fan has to admit that.
Things You Shouldn’t Miss
- The Trop is the only baseball park to have 8 foul poles – don’t forget to look up to the annoying catwalks.
- Along the west side is the Walk of Fame, honoring sports stars from all of Tampa Bay. Wade Boggs has a display, along with athletes across many sports.
- The walk from the parking lots to the entrance is marked with a phenomenal 1,000 foot mosaic of beach and sea life.
Cheap baseball tickets are relatively easy to come by via the box office or third-party sellers. If you are looking to buy last minute, Ticket Network always has tickets available.
Tropicana Field Covid-19 policies forbid outside food. You can bring in one sealed bottle of water. That will save you 5 bucks. The food inside the park is not particularly memorable but there is a fantastic sports bar with tunnel access to the Trop that you can check out before or after the game.
Going to a Major League Baseball game can get pretty pricey for baseball fans even before you get in the park. In 2006 the Rays did a pretty drastic overhaul to make the place more baseball friendly. The Trop is a fairly cool park and it’s definitely agreeable with many budgets. Shall we delve?
Check out some of these money-saving ideas.
The Trop is Famous for Its Roof and Catwalks – via Flickr of CityofStPete
Getting to the Game
Alternative/Public Transportation to a Rays Game
There is literally one public transportation option to get to the park. You can park or walk to any of the shuttle stops, and take that to the park. Or you can drive. Shuttle or drive.
There is a free shuttle to all home Tampa Bay Rays games. It runs a circular route around St. Petersburg, starting 90 minutes before the game and continuing until an hour after the game ends. You can drive into the shuttle and park in their garage by entering from 1st Avenue South between 1st and 2nd Streets.
Another option if you happen to be staying nearby is to avoid the crowded shuttle and the stress of traffic and grab an Uber ride. If you’ve never used Uber, click here and get your first ride free.
Driving to a Rays Game
Driving downtown and parking for a Rays game is just difficult. There is no way around it. You are dealing with one-way streets, street closures, and all types of confusion. Traffic backs up quickly so you need to get downtown as soon as possible.
There are three general lots at Tropicana Field. If you want to park in one of these general lots, Lots 2,6, and 7, prepay for this parking. Do not plan on just driving up at the last minute with a $10 and pulling in. First of all, they do not take cash anymore. Second, those lots do fill up and mostly from the prepaid spots. The last time I went to a Rays game, I had a prepaid spot and still had to squeeze into a spot in the lot that was almost full. You can easily buy these passes from the team’s official site here.
There are also great directions to each lot and a map of the lots around the stadium. The police are fantastic at closing roads as you get closer to the lots and will let you know that you need a pass and will also tell you if you are headed in the right direction.
Another site that may help you find those random lots around the stadium that might save you a couple of bucks is called Parkopedia. You can check all the parking around Tropicana Field and see prices and restrictions.
A service called Spot Hero allows you to reserve a guaranteed spot in a Rays official lot as well as a few other cheaper lots in the surrounding area. You can hop on their website to compare all of the available options and pay ahead of time for a spot that works for you. They’ll email you the parking pass and you can drive to the stadium knowing exactly where you’re going to be parking, how much you paid, and that a space will be waiting for your arrival.
Getting a Good Seat
Cheap Rays Tickets
At this point, nearly every Major League team has some kind of variable pricing model where, depending on how in-demand a game is, the ticket prices you’ll pay at the gate may go up or down.
Sometimes pricing varies from day to day, other times it is a more formal “tiered” structure. When they are playing a big draw team like the Yankees, you’ll pay a premium price compared to a perennial bottom-dweller who might be in the “budget tier.”
So rather than focusing on specific prices and sections, which tend to change fairly often, I want to talk about general rules and strategies for getting the best deals on tickets.
Compare 3rd Party Sites
Ticket Network is a big-time ticket comparison site that lets you compare a bunch of different ticket brokers, marketplaces, etc., and find the best price for the game you want to go to. They also have a tool that projects whether ticket prices will go up or down – AKA whether you should buy now or wait.
The Mascot, Raymond, is a… Ummm… He’s a Furry Ray… With Arms and Legs… Yeah…. – via Flickr user Eric Kilby
Buy Last Minute
If you’ve bought tickets online before, you’ve heard of StubHub. What you may not know, however, is that with the rise of print-at-home and tickets on your mobile phone via the Ballpark App, you can usually buy tickets right up to a couple of hours before game time.
As someone who has sold a fair share of tickets on StubHub, I also know that sellers are encouraged to set a declining price for their tickets. This means they’ll set a starting price and then their lowest acceptable price, and StubHub will auto-magically lower the price of those tickets as the event date gets closer.
So, in many cases, a game that isn’t sold out will have plenty of below face value deals on StubHub that you can snatch at the last minute and then either print at home, or just use the App on your phone to get scanned into the game.
That’s not to say that you can’t find ticket deals on Craigslist, you can. It is just more of a peace-of-mind safety issue. I’m a Craigslist kind of guy, but I also know it’s easy to get screwed buying baseball tickets there.
Remember when I mentioned selling on StubHub? When you list tickets there, all you need to know is the barcode number from your ticket, along with the other details on section, row, etc. So, when I sell tickets, I never mail them to the buyer. They just print them at home, and my actual tickets become void.
If I was a shady character, I could go sell those void tickets to an unsuspecting buyer on Craigslist for cash. The tickets look real, they are “real” in a sense. But, when the buyer enters the stadium, the ticket scanner will say “thou shalt not enter thy game.” Don’t be that buyer.
Stick to buying tickets from Ticket Network, StubHub, or directly from the team. You can still get deals and you never have to worry about being scammed.
Best Value Seats at the Trop
Tropicana Field is a dome, so it’s always 72 and sunny for a Rays home game. You may not have heard, but the Rays made the World Series in 2008 and suddenly started selling tickets. Fortunately for us, there are still good value tickets at Tropicana Field.
Tropicana’s Field upper deck is set up so that the first 4 or 5 rows are below the concourse. So, if you are in those rows, you come down the walkway and step down to your seats.
Why do I mention this? Because it is a huge benefit for your personal enjoyment of the game. You will have exponentially fewer people walking down the aisles in front of you, which means you can actually watch the game.
Most Seats Have Decent Views of the Field – via Flickr user Bryce Edwards
I think the upper deck at Tropicana Field is clearly the winner when it comes to best value tickets for a Rays game. The prices go up relatively sharply as you move down, and in my opinion, it’s mostly not worth it.
The Rays also charge a “day of game fee”, which I don’t like. If you buy tickets within five hours of game time, you pay an extra three dollars per seat. However, you are still going to pay a service fee if you buy online, over the phone, or through a third-party broker.
If you do decide to up the ante a little with tickets, be sure you spend wisely. You could sit in Loge box 107, which is the top part of the field level but provides a great view. If you were to move down a few rows to the lower box, your ticket price would double, and that is simply not worth it.
If you want an amazing view where you are treated like a VIP, splurge on the Home Plate Club seating. This is not the way to save money but you sit in plush leather seats behind home plate and have in-seat service, an all-inclusive buffet with a bar that opens before the game.
Getting Something to Eat
Save Money on Food
The only outside thing allowed in currently is a bottle of water, sealed. Thanks to Covid-19 policies, not outside food is allowed right now. Check the official site for changes before you go because as we all know by now, this pandemic stuff does not stay the same for long.
Go to Ferg’s Sports Bar before and after the game. Ferg’s is a huge place with a rooftop daiquiri bar, inside bar, outside area, and more. The place is almost two blocks worth of space. There is parking at Ferg’s and it has a tunnel that takes you directly to Tropicana Field. The drinks are cold here and the food is legitimately good bar food. Another option nearby is the best place for a beer snob, The Independent.
If you are taking the free shuttle, Downtown St Pete is full of incredible restaurants and bars so just pick one around you before or after the game and I guarantee it will be better than the park food.
Food in the Tropicana You Shouldn’t Miss
To be honest, it’s not a bad idea to bring in food – most of the food options at Tropicana Field are over-priced and unimpressive. Unlike a lot of stadiums that have upgraded their food service options for taste and quality of service, Tropicana field has not. The service is slow and the food is disappointing.
Your best bite would be the Cuban sandwich, a distinct food staple of South Florida. You can find them at several locations around the park.
I tend to stick with ballpark staples at parks like this. A hot dog, cheap beer, and some fries or nachos never let me down.
Getting a Place to Stay
My favorite way to travel to a baseball game is to stay as close to the stadium as possible and walk or take an Uber so I don’t have to fool with parking in a strange place.
Airbnb is the best way to find a really cool house or apartment to rent so you can hang out with your friends/family before the game and get a more authentic local experience.
Not only is it cooler than a hotel, but you can save $35 on your first stay by using my referral link. Many Airbnb options in St. Petersburg come with beautiful outdoor decks or pools. There are two types of rentals: a private room with a host, or a whole house.
I’ve done both, and you’ll have some peace of mind about the people you rent from because of the review system they have for the hosts. That should give you a high degree of confidence that you won’t end up on the bad side of a future Dateline NBC episode.
Best of all, you usually can find places to stay that are a cheap Uber ride to Tropicana Field.
Obviously, places come and go on the site, but I’ve used Airbnb a number of times for sports road trips, and it’s become my default option when I’m traveling. Click the button below to save $35 on your first trip and see what kind of cool places are currently available near the ballpark.
Free Stuff at Tropicana Field
The Rays usually have great promotional giveaways. I went to opening day a few years ago and they were giving out cowbells to the delight of my then 6 year old and to my dismay.
The Rays give away a 60+ page Official Gameday Program to all in attendance. It has stories, info on players, and some activities for the kids.
Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame
Located right inside the main gates to Tropicana Field, this museum contains exhibits on the Rays, Cy Young, and the Negro and Women’s Leagues.
Near Gate 1 at Center Field Street is an opportunity to reach out and touch the mascot. These tanks let you touch rays, adding a unique animal experience to your baseball game. An absolute must for anyone with kids.
Ballpark & Rec Pregame Experience
When the park opens, head to this new entertainment area inside the Trop behind the Budweiser porch in Center Field for some pregame fun. There are classic party games like corn hole, giant jenga, and pong. Its like a tailgate party but there is an indoor area as well with old-school arcade games.