Opinion

The Star’s 30-second ballpark tour: Tropicana Field

The Star's 30-second ballpark tour: Tropicana Field

The Star's Rustin Dodd offers a glimpse at ballparks across America. This week: Tropicana Field.
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The Star's Rustin Dodd offers a glimpse at ballparks across America. This week: Tropicana Field.

There is nothing like your first trip to a new ballpark. This has been true for 100 years, and it will be for 100 more.

The Royals will visit 18 road ballparks this season — 14 in the American League, four in the National League — and The Star has set out to offer a 30- to 45-second tour of every stadium … and a glimpse at where each venue ranks in baseball’s hierarchy of stadia.

Our second stop on the list is Tropicana Field, a stadium once known as the Thunderdome in its days before playing host to professional baseball.

[Previous tours: Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.]

And we’re off.

The Ballpark: Tropicana Field

The Capacity: 31,042; 42,735 (including tarp-covered seats)

The Year it Opened: 1990 (first baseball season in 1998)

The Location: Downtown St. Petersburg

The Star’s Ranking: 28th

The Breakdown: On the surface, Tropicana Field profiles as a dump, baseball’s answer to Kansas City’s Kemper Arena, circa 2004. It is quite weathered; it feels like a baseball field was placed in a warehouse; the blue color scheme and overall aesthetics rank among the worst in baseball. A review from USA Today and BaseballParks.com once called it "All Dome and Gloom".

That’s close enough. But the place is not without its charms. It is cozy, so the sight lines are good. The temperature is always 72 degrees — or close. The press box has a great location behind the plate, so for non-paying reporters like me, that’s a bonus. The lighting is not great. Neither are the crowds. Which means you can watch indoor baseball in relative peace and quiet and hear infielders scream for pop-ups.

Yet in a world where new retro ballparks are the new cookie-cutter stadiums from the 1970s, Tropicana Field can feel like a nice respite from the uniformity. Maybe you wouldn’t put Tropicana Field high on the list of stadium destinations. But its location — just down the street from the water in downtown St. Petersburg — adds to its allure. In short: Sometimes a dump can still be a fun place to watch a game. I enjoy the Trop -- in moderation.

The Nearby Hangs: Try Brooklyn South near the ballpark for a delicious sandwich and some cheese and charcuterie. The Salvador Dali Museum, dedicated to the renowned artist, is close as well, just off the waterfront.

Rustin Dodd’s Full Ballpark Rankings

1. Fenway Park

2. AT&T Park

3. PNC Park

4. Camden Yards

5. Safeco Field

6. Wrigley Field

7. Dodger Stadium

8. Kauffman Stadium

9. Target Field

10. Petco Park

11. Coors Field

12. Citi Field

13. Minute Maid Park

14. Marlins Park

15. Yankee Stadium

16. Guaranteed Rate Field

17. Rogers Centre

18. Chase Field

19. Nationals Park

20. Miller Park

21. Citizens Bank Park

22. Comerica Park

23. Great American Ball Park

24. Globe Life Park

25. SunTrust Park

26. Busch Stadium

27. Progressive Field

28. Tropicana Field

29. Oakland Alameda-County Coliseum

30. Angel Stadium of Anaheim

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