Name: Tropicana Field
Location: St Petersburg, Florida
Opened: 3 March 1990
Architect: HOK Sport
Cost: $130 Million
Surface: Shaw Sports Turf (artificial turf)
If you've been following along with any regularity to these ballpark profiles, you'll be well familiar with what -- in our estimation -- makes a great ballpark.
Let's see how Tropicana Field stacks up against our criteria:
Outdoors - NO
Natural Grass - NO
Baseball-only - NO
Part of the neighborhood - NO
Architecturally interesting and reflective of city - NO
Good ambiance, charm - NO
And, you know what?
I like Tropicana Field.
No, I love Tropicana Field.
It is everything a ballpark shouldn't be. To be honest, I cannot call this a "ballpark" with a straight face.
In ways I cannot even fully understand myself, let alone justify or explain, Tropicana Field just . . . works.
Maybe it's the fact that it doesn't hit a single criteria of what makes a good ballpark. If it hit one or two, it could just be considered really bad. But the fact that it ostentatiously, blatantly, proudly goes against everything a good ballpark should be gives it its own special charm.
Maybe it's the relentlessly good product on the field. Maybe it's the fans, who love their team, love baseball, and love The Trop. I really can't explain it.
It opened in 1990, just a year before New Comiskey in Chicago and two years prior to the iconic Camden Yards in Baltimore. This isn't some holdover from the multi-purpose cookie-cutters of the 1960s and 70s. Tropicana Field is essentially of the same vintage as Oriole Park and Jacobs Field. They knew better, and still came up with . . . that.
And that is genuinely, wholeheartedly okay.
Would I want Tropicana Field to be my home ballpark? No. No way.
Do I fervently hope the Rays, the amazing, wonderful Rays, get a new gem of a ballpark? Absolutely.
But, for what it is, Tropicana Field is a weird little slice of heaven.
Go. Visit it.
And not just to see one of the best young teams in action. Celebrate Tropicana Field for its own special . . . whatever.
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