10 Never Before Seen Facts on Tropicana Field

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10 Never Before Seen Facts on Tropicana Field

Tropicana Field is one of the league’s unique southern stadiums every baseball fan has on their bucket list. In fact, the Rays venue opened in 1998 and has never hosted the Midsummer Classic. Any Tampa Bay fan that bleeds Rays blue will know every information possible, from the team playing in the 2020 World Series to Blake Snell winning the Cy Young Award in 2018. However, there are new Tropicana Field facts that many baseball supporters never knew or never heard of in their lives. For details on what facts baseball fans rarely knew about, please refer to 10 Never Before Seen Facts on Tropicana Field below!

10: The Rays Used to Have a Fan vs. Food Challenge at the Stadium

Whenever spectators go to a sporting event, they look to grab a bite to eat at the stadiums. No matter if it’s for baseball or any other sport, fans would rely on concession stands in the concourse. Those stands traditionally serve hand-accessible foods like hot dogs, pretzels, and nachos. But there are some teams that go above and beyond in regards to providing the best culinary experience possible. For the Tampa Bay Rays, they used to have a Fan vs. Food Challenge at Tropicana Field. Located in the outfield concourse (ground level), there was a full-service restaurant called Everglades Brewhouse

They had over a half-dozen television sets and served many food items like sandwiches, salads, and appetizers. Perhaps the most memorable menu item that proved to be daring was the Fan vs. Food Challenge. Anyone who was brave enough to enter the contest had a half hour to finish a four-pound cheeseburger and another pound of French Fries.

Speaking of the burger, the food consisted of the following: 2-pound beef patty, ½ pound of bacon strips, and 4 American cheese slices served on a 1-pound sesame seed bun. The winner of the challenge would have gotten free tickets to a future Rays contest and a t-shirt. Unfortunately, Everglades Brewhouse has since been replaced by a two-level dining and social gathering space called Ballpark and Rec

9: Tropicana Field was the Site for the Most Controversial Men’s Final Four in History

When Tropicana Field made its debut in 1993, it hosted a lot of exciting sports events. For instance, the venue was called Thunder Dome when the Tampa Bay Lightning played home games there until 1996. From 2008 to 2017, Tropicana Field was the winter home for the St. Petersburg Bowl before becoming Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa. When the Rays played their first games in 1998, they advanced to two World Series (2008 and 2020) and saw two Cy Young winners in David Price (2012) and Blake Snell (2018). But did you know that Tropicana Field was the site for the most controversial Men’s Final Four in history? 

The 1999 Men’s Final Four was the only time the Rays ballpark ever hosted a set of major basketball games. The teams that reached the final stage were the following: UConn vs. Ohio State and Duke vs. Michigan State. In the Championship Game, Jim Calhoun and UConn defeated Mike Krzyzewski and Duke to claim their first of three titles. However, the controversial part of the Final Four was discovered after the tournament took place. In 2004, Ohio State head coach Jim O’Brien was dismissed due to improper benefits violations and having a non-eligible player on the roster. Therefore, the Buckeyes vacated all their games from the 1999-2002 period (including the 1999 Final Four run). 

8: Rays Ballpark Almost Had a Different Name When it Opened in 1998

Tropicana Field is probably the most Florida-themed sports stadium in America. Whenever the Rays win a home game, its roof lights up in orange (signifying a citrus theme). In addition, there is a huge Tropicana Field neon sign located inside the ballpark at right field. Most of all, Tropicana Field has been the official name for the ballpark since the Rays’ beginning. But believe it or not, the Rays stadium nearly had a different name when it opened in 1998. 

Not long after the then-Devil Rays took the field for the first time, Tropicana Field was facing the possibility of undergoing a name change. In summer 1998, Tropicana Products LTD. was acquired by PepsiCo Inc. for over $3 billion dollars. Despite speculation about a brand change, PepsiCo Inc. decided to keep the domed ballpark as Tropicana Field. One reason was that Tropicana Products LTD. had headquarter offices in Bradenton (20-25 minute drive to St. Pete). Another reason was that citrus fruits are a common theme not only in Tampa Bay, but also for the state of Florida. 

7: Houston Astros were the “Home” Team at Tropicana Field in 2017

Over the last couple of decades, uncontrollable circumstances have forced teams to play their home games in another location. For instance, the Astros played a home contest vs. Cubs at then-Miller Park because of Hurricane Ike in Texas in 2008. Next, the Marlins were the home team vs. White Sox at the formerly-named U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago due to the effects from Hurricane Ivan in Florida. Finally, the Blue Jays played a “home” series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia in 2010 because of a G20 Summit in Canada. Interestingly, the Houston Astros were the “home” team at Tropicana Field. 

Originally, the Astros/Rangers series in August 2017 was meant to be played at Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately, the series was moved to Florida due to Hurricane Harvey impacting Houston and Texas. Because of the change, the Astros served as the home team while the Rangers were the road team. What made this series odd was that Houston was wearing their road uniforms while the Rangers wore their home uniforms. Another thing to point out was that fans were allowed to attend the Texas baseball series with general admission charging as little as ten dollars. Despite the hurricane situation, the Astros went on to win their World Series title a couple months later. 

6: Before Going with a Dome, the St. Pete Baseball Stadium had a Different Look

Even though Tropicana Field has received criticism over the years, the ballpark does have some benefits. One thing is the domed roof that protects fans from rain delays and thunderstorms. Also, being in a closed-air stadium allows Rays games and other events to take place under climate control without having to deal with the hot summer heat. In 2019, Tropicana Field made history when it became the first ever sports venue to go entirely cashless on food and merchandise purchases. But one crazy thing about the Rays ballpark is that it had a different look before going with a dome. 

When city officials were designing the stadium in the 1980s, they had some unique ideas. One proposal was to build water fountains in the outfield similar to the one at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Another idea that came up was to have a circus-quality tent covering the open-air stadium. Keep that in mind that retractable roofs didn’t exist until 1989, when the then-SkyDome opened in Toronto. Ultimately, those plans fell through due to the inability to withstand strong storms as much as a domed stadium. 

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5: Cirque Du Soleil® used to Have Big Top Shows at the Rays Stadium’s Parking Lots

In the past, Tropicana Field has hosted some interesting events that have nothing to do with Rays baseball. For instance, the ballpark used to host the international festival called SPIFFS before moving to its current location at Vinoy Park. In addition, Tropicana Field would be the site for the Home Fair that showcases kitchens and windows. Recently, the stadium began hosting the holiday event called Enchant Christmas, where guests can walk through the lights displays and skate on the ice rink. But did you know that Cirque du Soleil® used to have tent shows at Rays Stadium’s parking lots. 

The Canadian circus firm made its first appearance at St. Pete in late 2002 when Quidam, a show about a girl who was exploring the alternative universe, came to Tropicana Field. In early 2004, Alegria made a stop in Pinellas County and played shows for nearly a month. Then, in 2005, Varekai (a tale about Icarus discovering a new world after falling from the sky) performed under the big top near Tropicana Field. Seven years later, Cirque du Soleil® hosted Kooza for several weeks at the stadium’s parking lots. However, the Canadian circus company has not returned to St. Petersburg since 2012. The tent shows did return with Volta in 2018, but in Tampa and not in St. Pete. 

4: Avril Lavigne had a Potty-Mouth Outburst During a 2011 Concert

Of course, it’s good practice for MLB stadiums to host live music shows. In fact, there are teams that previously hosted big-name performances. Those teams were the following: Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Red Sox, Athletics, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Tigers, Pirates, and many more. Concerts can vary with either a post-game event or just a stand alone performance during the off-season. But controversially, rock singer Avril Lavigne gave out a performance that made headlines for the wrong reasons. 

On Memorial Day 2011, the Canadian artist was playing a show that was part of the Rays Postgame Concert Series. She played some of her top hits like “Complicated” and “Sk8tr Boi.” Unfortunately, the songs were not the highlight of the night as Lavigne was caught going into a potty-mouth outburst. When the concert experienced technical difficulties with the microphone, the Canadian singer appeared to be saying ”(expletive) happens on a baseball field.” Once the microphone was fixed and the show started to begin, she thanked Tropicana Field for the invite and apologized for her tirade. 

3: Tropicana Field Previously had a 900-Foot Tile Mosaic Walkway in Front of Main Entrance

The home of the Tampa Bay Rays has many attractions for fans to see and do on game day. For example, they can visit the new museum opened in 2022 (left field concourse: ground level) that displays Rays history from the early days to their championship runs. Also, spectators can pet live stingrays at the Rays Touch Tank at the centerfield concourse (one floor above the field level).

However, there were other attractions at the Trop that no longer exist today. One example was the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame located at the outfield concourse (ground level), but it closed to make way for additional space for Ballpark and Rec. Another example was the full service restaurant located above the batter’s eye before turning into Budweiser® Porch. 

Perhaps the most notable attraction to disappear from Rays games today was the 900-foot tile mosaic walkway in front of the main entrance. Between the centerfield gate rotunda entry and the parking lot entrance was a 0.1-mile sidewalk that fans could walk on to get to the stadium. On top of that sidewalk was a long stretch of tile mosaic artwork that featured sharks and schools of fish.

The outside attraction was a fitting choice of theme since the ballpark was in Florida and not far from the beaches. Unfortunately, the 900-foot tile mosaic artwork was removed from the 0.1-mile sidewalk in the early 2020s. The Rays never released a public statement in terms of why the mosaic artwork was replaced by new cement. 

2: Baltimore Orioles Played a “Home” Series at Rays Ballpark

As we mentioned before in this article, uncontrollable circumstances have forced teams to play their home games elsewhere. For instance, the Marlins played a home contest vs. Mariners at then-Safeco Field because of the U2 concert at Florida’s stadium in 2011. Next, the Rays were the home team vs. Yankees at Citi Field in New York in 2017 due to the effects of Hurricane Irma in Florida. Finally, the Astros moved their “home” series to St. Pete in 2017 because of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. But believe it or not, the reason behind the Orioles playing a set of “home” games at the Trop had nothing to do with the weather. 

Initially, the Orioles/Rays series in April 2015 was meant to be played at Camden Yards. Unfortunately, the set of contests was moved to Florida due to the Baltimore riots in response to the death of African American citizen Freddie Gray. Because of the change, the Orioles served as the home team while the Rays were the road team. What made this series unique was that Baltimore was wearing their home uniforms while the Rays wore their road uniforms. Also, fans were permitted to attend the divisional matchup series with general admission charging as little as $15

1: Before the Rays, Tropicana Field was a Relocation Option for 3 Other Teams

Tampa Bay had a long road to get their first MLB team in the Rays. When the Devil Rays made their big league debut in 1998, they were an expansion team along with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In order to keep up with unpredictable weather, the Rays have spent their entire franchise playing under a dome. Perhaps the main reason a full-time baseball club was needed in Tampa Bay was due to Florida’s long history of Spring Training. Therefore, the sport is quite popular in the Sunshine State with as many as 15 teams playing there. But before the Rays, Tropicana Field was a relocation option for three other teams. 

During the 1990s, Tampa was one of the couple major cities in consideration for relocation by the following teams: Giants, Mariners, and White Sox. First, the sale of the San Francisco Giants to a group of Florida businessmen was actually agreed upon. In fact, the Giants were getting ready to move to Tampa before the sale was rejected by 14 National League owners. Second, the Mariners were eyeing Tampa as their new full-time destination if they couldn’t find a new stadium. However, the team and Seattle eventually reached a deal to replace the Kingdome with the Then-Safeco Field.

Last but not least, the Chicago White Sox initially picked St. Petersburg since they were having Spring Training in Sarasota at the time. Unfortunately, the White Sox-to-Tampa plan was scrapped when the Southside team and Chicago came up with a new ballpark now called Guaranteed Rate Field. 

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