Ballpark Digest is previewing what every MLB team is doing to begin the season, both on and off the field, as the 2018 campaign launches this week. Up next: the Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana Field.
Tropicana Field received some changes over the offseason, with the Tampa Bay Rays working to improve multiple aspects of the game day experience. Along with a new indoor/outdoor social space, the changes to Tropicana Field include new menu offerings, technology upgrades, and improved retail space.
The addition of new social spaces at ballparks is certainly a trend around Major League Baseball, and the Rays are adding to the mix for 2018. Tropicana Field will now feature Ballpark & Rec, an indoor/outdoor area inspired by St. Petersburg’s Park & Rec bar. Introduced by Hunger + Thirst, this area behind the Budweiser Porch in centerfield will feature a mix of offerings that includes specialty drinks, arcade games, as well as outdoor lounge and gaming space.
This season will also see an infusion of locally-inspired concession offerings. The Avenue and King’s Street Food Counter will both have portable carts on the Budweiser Porch, while Moon Under Water—a British Colonial pub in downtown St. Petersburg—will have a stand in Tropicana Field’s Center Field Street. The Tampa-based Kahwa is slated to have a presence in Tropicana Field that includes, but is not limited to, its own stand on the 100 level.
TradeWinds Island Resorts will provide cuisine from RumFish Grill at portable cart on the Budweiser Porch, with the menu including firecracker Shrimp, Mahi Tacos, and Tuna Poke. RumFish Grill’s presence will not be limited to that location, however, as its branding will be placed on the RumFish Grill Deck, a catered group area in centerfield.
Go To Steve’s Restaurants & Catering has been tabbed at the presenting partner of the Beach Dive stand in the ballpark’s Third Base Food Hall. In that location, fans can find offerings from a slate of Go To Steve’s Restaurants that includes Parkshore Grill, 400 Beach, The Annex, and The Hangar.
The theme of locally-inspired options extends to the ballpark’s beer selection. This year, the Rays are introducing a local craft beer program that will feature beers from numerous Tampa Bay area breweries. Drinks from the local craft beer program will be available at various stands and portable carts throughout Tropicana Field.
Another focal point for the Rays in their effort to shakeup the fan experience at Tropicana Field is the food offerings. Levy Restaurants is now on board as the concessionaire and has worked with the Rays to introduce new food items. This year, Tropicana Field will feature its own Reuben Cuban sandwich. For some baseball-inspired offerings, fan can seek out the Rocco Ball Deli, a new stand named for Rays coach and former centerfielder Rocco Baldelli. That stand will have a variety of offerings, including vegetarian Italian selections like Caprese Salad and Tri-Colori Salad.
Tropicana Field is also debuting a newly renovated Rays Republic merchandise store. The two-level main retail area will offer a variety of new merchandise—such as apparel relating to the team’s 20th anniversary—and will be open during home games, in addition to hours Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. and Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Technology changes should also improve the concession experience. New digital boards will lead to more prominent menu listings, while touchscreen kiosks throughout Tropicana Field will allow fans to place orders from nearby concessions. Overall, the Rays invested $7 million in capital improvements to spruce up amenities, modernize culinary equipment, and bring new technologies to the ballpark.
One other change at Tropicana Field to note is the replacement of the ballpark’s turf playing surface. It was an aesthetic decision, as players did not seem to mind the new turf installed in 2017, but the Rays and vendor Shaw Sports decided to replace the turf based on its look. Shaw Sports was primarily responsible for the costs.
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Image of Rays Reuben Cuban courtesy Levy Restaurants.