Considering the Tampa Bay Rays appear stuck in their lease with Tropicana Field until 2027, they've got to make the best of the situation. Monday, they announced significant upgrades to their home park, along with some artists renderings of how fans can expect the renovations to look.
The biggest change will be a 360-degree walkway around the entire lower-bowl seating area, with existing cross-aisles being extended from the left- and right-field foul poles in order to create "a walkway lined with drink rails as it winds toward center field." (See above picture)
Speaking of center, here's what the press release has to say about that:
The renovations will also create a more dynamic experience in the area just above the center field wall previously occupied by the Everglades BBQ Smokehouse. No longer a walled- and glassed-in space set apart from the game, it will be transformed into a unique patio with open views of the playing field and new food and beverage areas easily accessible to all ballpark patrons.
A new deck overlooking the Rays Touch Tank will connect the patio to the new walkway at its right field entrance. A more traditional batter's eye structure, meeting all Major League Baseball specifications, will also be installed.
Here's another view:
All this means the entire lower-level would now be accessible from the main rotunda entrance and all of the seating area will be much more accessible to all fans.
"This project will significantly enhance the total ballpark experience," said Rays senior vice president of development and business affairs Michael Kalt in a statement. "It will make it much easier for our patrons to navigate the ballpark, and allow them to enjoy the game from exciting new areas and dynamic new vantage points."
There will be about 3,000 seats removed to in order to complete the project, giving the Trop an estimated capacity of 31,042 for the 2014 season. They averaged 18,645 fans per game last season, dead last in the majors despite being a playoff team for the fourth time in the past six seasons.
Good on the Rays brass for continuing to make the best of a bad situation.