ST. PETERSBURG, FL - July 19: Catcher Robinson Chirinos #38 of the Tampa Bay Rays eyes a foul behind the plate against the New York Yankees July 19, 2011 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays won 3 - 2. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Rays' home stadium is teaming up with a growing number of people who want to replace the Tampa Bay Rays' home stadium.
Tropicana Field's complete history may be familiar to few. Yes, it's been the home of the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays since their inaugural season in 1998. But 1998 wasn't the Trop's first year of existence. Construction began in 1986 and wrapped up in 1990, with the building then known as the Florida Suncoast Dome. It didn't have any regular tenants until 1993, when it hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Tampa Bay Storm also moved in, and for a time it was renamed the Thunderdome. It was only in the middle of the decade that the area was awarded a Major League Baseball team, and the hockey and football teams moved out.
Today, Tropicana Field is baseball's only remaining domed stadium without a retractable roof, and is generally considered the worst stadium in the league, a lopsided, obsolete, and out-of-the-way eyesore.
Rays Ballpark was proposed as a Tropicana replacement in 2007, but concerns date back much further than that. Here is a St. Petersburg Times article by Bryan Gilmer from April 2000 suggesting that the baseball team could use a new home:
But today, as the Devil Rays prepare to open just their third season in the renamed Tropicana Field, the dome is already becoming a dinosaur.
It may be an unthinkable question for Pinellas County taxpayers, but it is fair to ask: How long can Tropicana Field hold on?
Indeed, as more and more time has passed, more and more people have come out in favor of the Rays building a new ballpark, including manager Joe Maddon himself. Though the Rays are tied to Tropicana until 2027, it's been suggested that getting out of the stadium is the only way for the Rays to remain viable.
And recently, a new supporter for a move has emerged: Tropicana Field itself. The Trop was long a willing if somewhat reluctant host to Major League Baseball, with only occasional acts of sabotage. But this week, we've seen an increasing number of signs that the stadium has grown weary of the proceedings.
During a Monday night game between the Rays and the Yankees, a whole bank of lights went out, causing an extended delay:
And during a Tuesday night game between the Rays and the Yankees, Curtis Granderson lost a critical fly ball when he couldn't spot the ball against the stadium's ceiling:
Three days, three games, and three instances of reduced visibility. It's becoming clear that Tropicana Field doesn't want to play host to baseball anymore, and to achieve this end it's making the actual baseball harder and harder to see. If this keeps up, the Rays will be given little choice but to play elsewhere. Baseball cannot be played in the dark, because it's dangerous and also because it makes people sleepy.
It's presently unclear what effect the stadium's desire will have on the lease, but the situation is approaching the unworkable. It's also unclear to which events the stadium would actually like to play host. It's possible it just wants to be left alone.