Ballpark Digest is previewing what every MLB team is doing to begin the season, both on and off the field, as the 2019 campaign is around the corner. Up next: the Tampa Bay Rays and Tropicana Field.
Over the offseason, the Rays laid the groundwork for what should be a changed fan experience at Tropicana Field in 2019. Along with changes to the ballpark’s seating that included a reduction in capacity and the addition of new group spaces, the Rays also announced a cashless transaction system, new concession options, an updated bar and restaurant, and improvements such as the installation of new turf.
Under a new seating arrangement that will be implemented this season, the Rays will close the 300 Level at Tropicana Field, effectively reducing the fixed seating capacity to just over 25,000. In addition, the team has added the new Left Field Ledge (rendering above). Located where there were previously tarped seats above the left field crosswalk, the new Left Field Ledge offers two options for groups. That includes Ledge Tables, available to groups of eight or more for single games and as a table of four as part of a season ticket plan, along with Patio Boxes designed for groups of 12-24 people. Patio Boxes will feature a private TV to go along with a combination of cushioned and table seating, and groups will be able to purchase catering options through hospitality partner Levy.
In a shift that affects fall fans, the Rays are making Tropicana Field a cash-free sports venue. As part of this plan, Tropicana Field’s concessions, team stores, box office, and all other points-of-sale will operate cash-free in 2019. Transactions will take place through forms of payment such as major credit cards, debit cards, Rays gift cards, NFC mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, and Season Ticket Holder Rays Cards. Fans without electronic forms of payment can exchange cash for gift cards in any amount at all retail locations and in $10 or $20 increments through roaming gift card vendors. The ballpark’s parking operations are also cash-free, as they were for the 2018 season.
That initiative was first announced in January. Since then, Tropicana Field has been joined in the cash-free transaction trend by Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where all transactions made inside the gates during games for MLS’s United and the NFL’s Falcons are now made through credit cards, debit cards, or mobile payment services.
The 2019 season will also see the debut of a revamped Outfielder Bar & Grill at Tropicana Field. Opening four hours before first pitch, the space will offer drink options including $4 cans, $6 crafts, as well as 20% off of all food up until all gates open. It is connected to Tropicana Field’s Ballpark & Rec space, while offering an array of activities that include a virtual batting cage, social media wall, and bar games such as darts and shuffleboard.
New food options are also being introduced this year, with local partners such as Sweet Stack Shack and Crabby’s Beachside Bites joining Tropicana Field’s concessions slate. On the field level in centerfield, fans will find a new Southern Fried as well as a new location for a Rays Grab & Go stand. Cubano’s is joining the ballpark’s concessions slate as well with locations at the Third Base Food Hall and on the field level in right field, with the Third Base Inner Concourse’s Lead Off Wok and Walk Off Tacos, and the First Base Food Hall’s Pacific Counter–featuring build-your-own sushi bowls–also highlighting the new additions for 2019.
There are a few other changes around Tropicana Field to note. The Rays have installed a new Shaw Sports Turf product playing surface that is intended to be more durable, while installing LED lights throughout the ballpark. Changes were also made to Tropicana Field’s Gates 4 and 5, which were redesigned and enhanced to improve access/egress.
Rendering courtesy Tampa Bay Rays.
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