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What would you like to see in a new Rays ballpark?

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New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays
Will we miss the catwalks?
Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Earlier this week the Rays launched a website to “crowdsource” ideas for their new stadium. Fans are invited to use the site to share their thoughts about what our new Tampa Bay stadium might look like, sound like, feel like — heck, even smell like.

The Rays goal is not to simply reproduce, say, a PNC or Minute Maid Park that happens to be in Tampa or St. Pete; it’s to predict what the next generation of stadiums will look like, how they will function, and then figure out how to make that next generation stadium work here. To do that, they welcome the input of the community.

Below are some stadium suggestions from our writers and editors; please share your own in the comments.

Amenities

Wave Pool Offers Refuge From Extreme Heat At Mandalay Bay
Must have: lazy river
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
  • “I think it's a foregone conclusion that any serious stadium proposal will include a lazy river around the ballpark” was Managing Editor Danny Russell’s opening salvo in this discussion. Yes, for as long as there have been stadium discussions on this site, there have been lazy river discussions. And a lazy river, while perhaps not the most practical of features, certainly achieves the Rays goals of being authentic to the region (it’s hot; we have a lot of water parks) and finding new ways to engage the public. Bradley Neveu went even further: “It should be a form of transportation to the park.” Interesting idea... if our county governments continue to struggle to fund mass transit, perhaps networks of lazy rivers leading to key regional nodes can be a substitute, and our new stadium can lead the way!
  • Speaking of water, Joe Biggs suggested expanding on the ray tank idea to create a full aquarium. This could be open to the public year round, something the Rays value, and is thematically appropriate. Perhaps the Rays could partner with the Tampa’s Florida Aquarium (the current partner) and/or the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to expand exhibit space at the stadium.
  • More bars and restaurants, so that people who might not be interested in sitting with eyes glued to field and scorecard for 9 innings would still have an interest in going to a game. Joe Biggs notes that a rooftop bar area at Coors field offers standing room only tickets with drink vouchers and is quite popular.
  • An area for parents with small children so that parents can continue to follow the game while restless kids let off steam in ways that don’t involve kicking the seat in front of them.
Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Darby found this at the Nats stadium: “an air conditioned suite with big comfy chairs, changing tables, and huge flat screens where they can watch the game, feed or change the baby, all in comfort for a little while (plus away from the thousands of screaming fans)”

  • What about a space for those of us who are, ahem, “working” at the ballpark? Danny might move back to FL if the Rays could provide this: “a workspace where individuals or groups of people can do work on laptops... What if consultants on the road could buy access with their expense account, say for a restaurant, and then bring their laptops to a safe work environment?”

In Game Experience

  • Embracing technology: One of the challenges of bringing people to the park is competing with their game viewing experience at home. Well, the Rays probably can’t recreate your comfy couch, but they can ensure that you have access to the same trove of stats, replays and scoreboards that you would have at home. First, our DRB writers ask for Wifi; then perhaps for better ways of providing key information to those who want it. Enhanced scoreboards; in-game apps are all possibilities; these can also be used to develop trivia games or other audience experiences. Finding ways to communicate a great deal of information to baseball nerds without overwhelming those who just want to see the score is always the challenge.
  • Food trucks! This could be difficult given the way concessions contracts work, but some way to diversify the food offerings is a must. Apps that show where to find different kinds of concessions, maybe even to indicate the length of lines or allow patrons to place orders for pick up or in-seat delivery could also help fans who don’t want to miss an inning to get their food.
Citi Offers Sweet Treats to New Yorkers Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Citi

Park and Field Design

  • Peter Gordon had a simple but important request: drink holders for all! It’s much more fun to watch a game when you are not trying to balance a cup of beer on your lap. Angling seats to provide decent sight lines to home plate would make all seats “good” seats.
  • Some want a retractable roof, but if that is deal-killing expensive perhaps there could be other ways to provide the experience of natural light and air.
  • Some things DRB writers would like to keep from the current Trop: The 360 walkway, also featured at Charlotte Sports Park, is popular, and the centerfield fence is good as is: “ just high enough to require an athletic OFer to make a great jump and catch to rob a HR.” Something they hope will change: no bullpens on the playing field, please!

Location and Financing

  • Accessible by foot/transit (or see River, Lazy, above).
  • But space for tailgating for those who like that experience
  • Within an area that would allow for pre and post game pub-crawls
  • Creative approaches to financing that would maximize private participation, find public sources that don’t take resources from important regional needs, and balance risk and reward so that regional governments in this area don’t end up like those in Miami-Dade, where a Zika-related drop in tourism taxes could leave the county liable for stadium related debt service.
Boston Red Sox v Miami Marlins
Let’s NOT do what they did
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

These are just some of our ideas, and we’d love to hear yours as well in the comments below. Most rec’d comments may be featured at a later time.

You can read our full conversation below:

DRaysBay Stadium SlackChat

Danny Russell:

How would we reimagine a new ballpark?

Bradley Neveu:

Lazy River.

Are we done now?

Danny Russell:

I think it's a foregone conclusion that any serious stadium proposal will include a lazy river around the ballpark

Bradley Neveu:

It should be a form of transportation to the park

Mister Lizzie:

A few things to think about given some of the material the Rays have put out there:

1. This stadium even if all goes well won't open for another 5 or more years. So think ahead.

2. Really consider which aspects of a current stadium will still be needed. Do you need a box office? A concourse? Does everyone need a seat? That may sound crazy but some people might like to hang out at a bar with a stadium view.

3. Rays are into the idea of multiple uses, co-location, stadium as a destination all year round.

So what would you co-locate with a stadium?

Joe Biggs:

An aquarium that can be visited year round that obviously has a large rays section that features various rays, but also other fish.

Coors field has a section called the Roof Top where it’s standing only. You pay I think like $20 and you get a $10 drink voucher, but you stand and watch the entire game. It’s crazy popular.

Bradley Neveu:

Request multiple pokestop locations all over the stadium from Niantic (Pokemon GO creator) and have "lures" going during every game. It's only $1 per stop per 30min and would be a huge hit

Current stadium has stops on in the outfield. Get some behind the plate too

Mister Lizzie:

I'm SURE Pokemon will still be a thing when this place opens in 2020, Bradley.

Joe Biggs:

Oh absolutely!

Danny Russell:

This raises a great idea though: wifi for all! And a secure wifi for those who need it!

Imagine a stadium that has a workspace where individuals or groups of people can do work on laptops? I worked in consulting for three years, and our team's most certainly would have utilized that on a few occasions.

What if consultants on the road could buy access with their expense account, say for a restaurant, and then bring their laptops to a safe work environment? $30 entry, access to restaurant food plates and beer, solid and secure wifi, and work stations with view of the field.

The restaurant part would be important, so that it goes on corporate card as dining, and the restaurant could be partitioned off so that it’s a secure space for business people to set up shop without high foot traffic. There could be multiple bars around the stadium that suit different purposes.

Brett Phillips:

That bar idea is so cool.

Joe Biggs:

Tons of people just go there after work for drinks who don’t really even care about baseball. Just a cool bar to get drinks.

Brett Phillips:

Water front view, if possible. A roof is an absolute must. Is that sail roof thing still feasible?

Mister Lizzie:

To you retractable roof fans: what would you think if the roof were fixed but a wall or several walls could be pulled back? Is that sufficient?

Bradley Neveu:

I thought retractable roofs were crazy expensive

Mister Lizzie:

I’d imagine it's a lot cheaper to have a wall that moves than a roof that moves.

Brett Phillips:

Ohh that'd be interesting. Could it still look cool? As in, not like a warehouse like some say the Trop is? I'm trying to picture that...

Bradley Neveu:

How about some kind of nostalgia room with mementos and a video of the greatest moments in Rays history on loop

Danny Russell:

An improved Ted Williams Museum, yes!

Joe Biggs:

As a Coloradan, this might be way out in left field since I’m not entirely in tune with the Tampa/St. Pete culture, but what about food trucks.

It might be a "no go" because food market share, but could be a way to draw people year-round and grow a partnership with small business. There is a community college here that is going to start supplying food via local food trucks. They are huge out here.

Bradley Neveu:

Food trucks in the parking lot or just inside the gate

Outside would be good before and after the game, inside would be during

Joe Biggs:

I was thinking outside.

Bradley Neveu:

Good food trucks are definitely "in" right now.

Danny Russell:

You know what else I'd like to see in a stadium? Something easy to get to, with ample parking opportunities and safe areas for bar crawls after the game. Places like U.S. Cellular where there’s no where to go pale in contrast to places like Wrigley Field, which is in a flourishing neighborhood.

Bradley Neveu:

How about a bullpen that's not on the field?

Joe Biggs:

Yes please.

Bradley Neveu:

I love the outfield walls that are just high enough to require an athletic OFer to make a great jump and catch to rob a HR. Our CF is perfect for that right now. Would be neat to have that all across the OF for more highlight catches

Dustin Clingman:

Free Refills on Souvenir Drink purchases (non beer)... and if they do this already… do not tell me because I’ve never taken advantage of it.

Bradley Neveu:

Lol

Brett Phillips:

Wider open spaces for parking that are conducive to tailgating. I'm always disappointed that I've never been able to tailgate properly at the Trop

Darby Robinson:

I do like the idea of an area with plenty of games at the stadium, like the Trop’s right field concourse, but for both kids and adults. Make coming to the game early a must!

Also, after going to a Nats game with my fiancee's sister who had a new baby, I never realized how awesome it is that at Nats park they have a "mommy room", an air conditioned suite with big comfy chairs, changing tables, and huge flat screens where they can watch the game, feed or change the baby, all in comfort for a little while (plus away from the thousands of screaming fans)

Bradley Neveu:

That does sound awesome

Mister Lizzie:

That's a winner Darby although I'd probably call it the parent room!

Darby Robinson:

Yeah, let's not be sexist or exclusionary.

I would also love a baseball trivia game. Could have people download an app for the stadium, and play along in between innings to earn rewards

It's old fashioned, but I do love the in between inning games they have on jumptrons, but we could do the modern version

Joe Biggs:

Hmm. That’s an interesting idea. I like it.

Darby Robinson:

Oooh, and the stadium app could also have a map of all the concessions with a way to tell how long or short the lines are

Joe Biggs:

Maybe you could order food from your seat? So instead of flagging down the vendor selling beer you just order from your app and someone brings it to you.

Darby Robinson:

Nats park's app has a new app this year that does just that! You can order certain concessions and beer. It's a great idea!

Bradley Neveu:

A stadium app sounds like a must

That could have a list of features all of its own

A menu feature in the app would be cool. I want nachos but I know the vendor by my seat doesn't sell them. Could either search nachos or look at other vendor menus

Danny Russell:

I think one of the most valuable aspects of my baseball experience is being able to see replays and, more importantly, to see every pitch. When you're at the stadium and in the seats, it's all about offense. You can't see the strike zone, even though pitching is the majority of action in a baseball game.

When I visit Tropicana Field, I choose the second deck because I know that televisions for the suite boxes are within my sight line. When I visit older parks like Fenway or Wrigley, I choose the back of the stadium because I know there will be televisions to compensate for poor sight lines.

While I do not anticipate the new ballpark to have poor sightlines, I would be more inclined to attend a game if I knew I would have an ability to view the strike zone live. This would also provide advertising opportunities as well, the live feed could be framed in some sort of advertising, and televisions could be provided by a company as well.

JT Morgan:

I imagine the umpires wouldn't want you to do that with a strike zone.

Having vision of TV is one thing, but could imagine the complaining that would occur if everybody had access to a pitch fx style zone.

Mister Lizzie:

But everyone sort of does if they have a smart phone.

JT Morgan:

Yes, but I don't think the team could get away with giving them access to that info.

Mister Lizzie:

I do see Danny's point though -- one of the challenges for teams of all kinds is finding ways to make the in-stadium/arena experience comparable to the at-home experience.

There are things about being at the park that you can't replicate at home, but more and more, with HD tv and apps and replays etc you can often appreciate the game more at home. And there you have your own fridge and bathroom.

JT Morgan:

It's definitely not easy.

Peter Gordon:

These are great ideas about wifi amenities, but some of the things I'd like in the ballpark a low tech - for example, cupholders for every seat so you don't have to put your soda or beer on the floor. Charlotte sports park has them.

Also, sight lines and seats angled toward the field so you don't have to keep your neck permanently cramped to watch the game if you're down the line in right or left.

How about wider aisles in the upper deck. I'd also like them to keep the walk around the stadium feature they have in the Trop and at Charlotte sports park.

Finally, I'd like the design to reflect the geography of where the stadium is. If it's on Tampa bay, let's have Bay views. Use the local geography to make the field distinctive. Hard to say exactly what to add there until they choose a location. And I'm all for the lazy river.

Mister Lizzie:

Great ideas Peter. And I agree, something as simple as a cup holder makes the experience so much better, and who know it may help avoid trash and spills at the same time!

Danny Russell:

Staying on-theme with the ballpark’s area seems like a must. I want a new ballpark to feel like it’s always been there.

I'd also like to see the majority of the cost privately funded or associated with tourism taxes and TIF money, and for public funding that is attached to not detract from public works (hello, I-275 expansion) or public schools.

Miami could be at risk to find local funding to fight Zika because of stadium debt. That's absurd and should never be a risk in Tampa Bay.

Mister Lizzie:

Totally agree that any arrangement made here can't jeopardize the financial health of the region. I don't have a good answer on how to do that.....but certainly that needs to be a guiding principle.

In some cases public funds are not fungible -- e.g money for highway expansion comes from a source that can't be used for other things, and vice Versa -- so it's not entirely a zero sum game.

But for a city or county to put its credit worthiness on the line to pick up stadium debt doesn't seem like a good idea.

Danny Russell:

And I would like tickets to remain affordable, as they are now. There are several times here in Boston I've shied away from attending a game when I've weighed the $40-50 ticket price against the possibility of rain.

A roof/lightning protection in Tampa Bay certainly assuages that, but people in Florida are so rarely motivated to go anywhere when it rains, particularly when the Rays have such a great product on the Radio and Television!

Maybe that’s why there are so many blue seats...