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.
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 definitely agreeable with many budgets. Shall we delve?
The Trop is Famous for Its Roof and Catwalks - via Flickr of CityofStPete
Arriving at Tropicana Field
Alternative/Public Transportation to a Rays Game
There is quite literally one public transportation option to get to the park. You can park or walk to any of the stops of the shuttle, and take that to the park. Or you can drive. Shuttle or drive.
There is a free shuttle to all home Rays games. It repeats a circular route around St. Petersburg, starting 90 minutes before the game and continuing until an hour after the game/concert ends.
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
I almost always recommend looking for metered parking as a free parking alternative for a baseball game. However, I am backing off that recommendation for Tropicana Field. If you google St. Petersburg Metered Parking, you will see that its actually a hot topic in the area right now. There is no consistent law which guides the times meters are enforced, so many people end up with tickets they didn’t expect and so forth.
If you do stumble across a metered spot on 3rd or Central, please make sure you look for signs or read the meter to see if it is enforced 24 hours or not. If it is, move on.
The Rays offer free parking at Tropicana Field. The catch is that you need to have at least 4 people in your car. They do this as an incentive to carpool, and I love the idea. If you have less than 4 people, it costs $15 to park.
Here are the details from their website on free parking: Complimentary parking for all vehicles with four or more passengers will be available in Rays lots 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9 for all Sunday games. The first 100 vehicles with four or more may park for free in Rays lots for all other regular season home games.
So if you have family or friends going to the game, it definitely pays to pick a spot in town to drop your car and ride together. It can be a little confusing because some parking lots at the Trop are preferred or reserved lots which don’t carry this policy. You will want to go after lots 6 or 7 which will be the easiest free parking lots to find at a Ray’s game.
A service called Parking Panda allows you to reserve a guaranteed spot in the Rays Official Lot 3, 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.
Check out their options in the window below to get started:
Best Food At & Near the Trop
Save Money on Food
Going to Tropicana Field on a budget becomes easier because of the fact that you can bring your own food into the stadium. Technically the food should be in a clear plastic bag or a soft sided cooler. No glass, no cans. Feel free to pick up dinner on the way or pack snacks from home, but either way you save big. You can also take in plastic bottles of water which are still sealed and unopened.
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. Your best bite would be the Cuban sandwich, a staple of south Florida. You can find them at several locations around the park.
One unique thing in Tropicana Field that I guess falls under the food category is the cigar bar in center field. In fact, this is one of the only cigar bars at a Major League stadium. It's located in the outfield behind center field and is filled with leather chairs, a view of the game, and is for cigar smokers only. This would completely blow your budget, but if cigars are your thing it is a unique opportunity.
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 where 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.
1. Compare 3rd Party Sites
SeatGeek 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
2. 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 that 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.
3. Avoid Craigslist
It'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 that 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 what that buyer will find out is when they go to enter the stadium, the ticket scanner will say "thou shalt not enter thy game."
Don't be that buyer.
Stick to buying tickets from SeatGeek, 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 to where 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 less 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 Ray’s 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 5 hours of game time, you pay an extra 3 dollars per seat. However, you are 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.
Where to Stay While Visiting Tropicana Field
My favorite way to travel to a baseball game is to stay as close to the stadium as possible and walk, or take 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.
There are 2 types of rentals - those where you rent a private room and stay with a host and those where you rent out the whole place. 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 - so you have 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
1. Inside Pitch - 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.
2. 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.
3. Touch Tank - 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.