Click here for photo gallery
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - They've been a source of discussion, ridicule, and controversy. But despite all the recent coverage, Tropicana Field's catwalks also remain a source of intrigue.
After Minnesota's Jason Kubel helped the Twins beat the Rays on Aug. 5 by drilling a single off of the dome's uppermost "A" ring, 10 News reporter Noah Pransky set off to scale the stadium's scant structure and find the spot - 190 feet above the field - that just two balls have ever reached during a game.
10 News Operations Manager Eric Burks and engineer Bob Lenart shared their harrowing stories of climbing to the stadium's top ring, but nothing could prepare Pransky for what he found while documenting the trip with video (watch on the right!).
"The Trop" has four catwalks/rings that serve to hold lights, speakers, and provide support for the hurricane-resistant dome.
- The "D" ring is the lowest catwalk, hanging 121 feet above the playing surface. If struck by a fair ball - as it has been 20 times - it's ruled a home run.
- The "C" ring hangs 146 feet above the field and if struck by a fair ball, it's ruled a home run. Struck 61 times in the Rays' 13 years of existence, it is the most commonly-hit ring.
- The "B" ring hangs 170 feet above home plate and if struck by a fair ball, the ball is live. It's been done 25 times.
- The "A" ring is the highest catwalk, hanging more than 190 feet above the pitcher's mound. It's only been struck twice, but the ball is live when it does.
Because the dome is slanted, the rings are slanted too and sit slightly lower over the outfield than they do over the infield.
The initial shock when a first-timer climbs the catwalks is the heat and humidity. Because the air conditioners blow cold air down from the balcony, the temperatures near the roof are 20-30 degrees hotter than the rest of the stadium. On Thursday, it was near 100 and humid at the top.
The catwalks also don't feel sturdy at first, even though the Rays report zero injuries all-time on the rings. The grates shake when stepped on. They are also slanted sideways because of the shape of the roof. And even though the slant is just a couple of degrees, it can feel much more significant.
The other big shock of the catwalks is how dirty they are. Because they have never been cleaned, 20 years of dust sits on most surfaces. Much of it came from old dirt track races in the Florida Suncoast Dome days.
Follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky, Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky, or on his sports business blog, Shadow of the Stadium.