Rays 360: Tropicana Field upgrades unveiled

12:49 PM, Dec 3, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- The Tampa Bay Rays revealed plans Tuesday for a sweeping new open-air patio and walkway above center field.

They hope the "Rays 360" stadium upgrade will dramatically improve the experience of watching a game at Tropicana Field.

The outfield sure doesn't look like it used to. Construction gear is everywhere, and whole walls and seating areas have been torn out.

Work has already begun to dismantle the big Batter's Eye restaurant in center field and replace it with Rays 360.

Rays 360 is a wide-open walkway with spectator spots, concessions, and -- finally -- a connection that lets you constantly watch the game and not have to practically leave the ballpark to go from one area of the outfield to another.

At the project's unveiling Tuesday, 10 News asked team president Matt Silverman whether these changes will really drive more people out to the ballpark.

"I hope it'll drive more people. What I know it'll do, is for those who already come, they'll have an even better time," Silverman said.

"We take great pride in having a wonderful fan experience, and this will make it even easier for our fans to enjoy the game, to circulate around and not miss those moments of the game when they want to go and get a soda or a hot dog.

"It'll just make it a lot easier to enjoy a game here at Tropicana Field."

The stadium upgrade is a multimillion dollar project, with $250,000 of that paid for by a city of St. Pete account that collects cash from ticket sales and naming rights. The rest is coming straight from the team.

Silverman wouldn't say exactly how much team is investing, but told us it's in the millions.

He added that since Stu Sternberg took over as the team's main owner in 2006, the Rays have spent more than $20 million on stadium improvements to Tropicana Field.

We asked Silverman, with all of the talk about the future location of the team, what does it say that the city and the team are putting investments like this into the Trop right now?

"We have a very strong commitment to our region, and a strong commitment to making this a great place to watch a game," Silverman said. "And these investments demonstrate that."

About another $1 million will be taken out of that same city fund for more work over the off-season.

Those projects will be limited to more traditional maintenance work -- the type you might expect a building owner to complete -- including restroom renovations, safety handrails, and upgrades to the parking lot lighting.

The same contract that requires the Rays to play at Tropicana Field through 2027 requires the City of St. Petersburg, as the ballpark's owner, to handle maintenance issues and make occasional improvements.

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