There’s no question that taking a family out for a day at the ballpark can be expensive. Rays baseball, however, is more affordable than Bucs football or Lightning hockey, and for the cost-conscious there are ways to save — on tickets, on parking and on food.
Here we are sharing some tips on enjoying the Rays without breaking the bank; if you are willing to share some of your ideas please do so in the comments as well.
Tickets... and fees
Ticket prices vary, depending on where you sit and when you go to a game. The Rays charge more on weekends than on weekdays, and charge a whole lot more for “prime games” (those against the Yankees and Red Sox and in some cases against National League teams like the Cubs). So if your schedule is flexible, you will always save if you can attend, say, a Tuesday night game against the Royals rather than a Friday night game against the Yankees. For those nonprime games, you can get very good seats for a reasonable cost. Outfield seats sell for $20; press level (second deck) seats for $25.
There are further opportunities for discounts as well. If you are a college student, you can get $9 standing room tickets, and with the addition of the Porch, just above centerfield, standing is not so bad. Military members, both active and non-active, receive discounts.
For the month of August, the Rays also have a 20% off special that applies to all tickets. I got a coupon through Valpak; see below for an image with the discount code:
Following the Rays on social media or sharing your email address with them can also help you see any other one-off or short-term discount offers. For example, there is currently a flash sale for $15 tickets (available through 10 am on July 23 for any game in July or August).
Unfortunately the list price for tickets is never the whole ticket price story. Whenever you buy a ticket some $5-8 dollars in fees will be added. In essence, teams like the Rays have outsourced ticket sales to vendors like Ticketmaster, which earn their money by tacking on fees. You’d think the absence of actual printed tickets would help lower fees, but that does not seem to be the case. Some years ago you were able to purchase tickets directly from the ticket office at the stadium and avoid all those fees; I’m not sure if that is still the case.
Not long ago we noted that the Rays are now one of only two MLB teams that do not permit fans to bring their own food, a departure from their pre-COVID policies and a disappointment for many; however, you can still help cut down on concession spending in a few ways.
First, there are some exceptions to the no food policy. You can bring your own sealed bottles of water, or bring empty water bottles to fill up at the stadium. You can bring snacks for children and you can bring food if necessary for medical reasons. Suffice it to say that the bag checkers are not asking for doctor’s notes.
Secondly, there are so many opportunities to grab a meal or a beer near Tropicana Field that you can easily fill up pre- or post-game. And no, Ferg’s is no longer the only game in town. For the budget conscious, street food-themed places like Bodega or Hawkers offer reasonably priced meals and snacks. Here is just one guide to Central Avenue eateries that can be useful to those heading to the ballpark.
Getting to the stadium and parking
There are indeed ways to get to Tropicana Field without driving, at least for those in Pinellas County. The stadium lies on the Pinellas trail, which makes it quite accessible by bicycle if you are coming from points north or south. There are also at least three Pinellas County buses (routes 16, 18 and 32) that have Tropicana Field stops.
If you are not coming from Pinellas County there may not be good alternatives to arriving by car. The Tropicana Field lots closest to the stadium charge $20; there are some pre-paid options for just $15, but it can be much cheaper.
My personal favorite choice is to park in the public South Core garage ($1 per hour) and take the free “baseball trolley” (really a bus) to the stadium. Additionally, the trolley doesn’t add that much time to my trip since it avoids the logjams when everyone leaves the stadium lots at the same time, and it allows me to pretend that I live in a real city with decent public transit. Interestingly, the Rays used to have information about this shuttle on their website, but they don’t anymore. You can find information here.
To be sure, if your idea of a great day at the ballpark includes the best seats in the house, reserved parking and unlimited concessions then these tips might not appeal to you. But for the cost-conscious, choosing off-peak games, off-site parking, and limiting those $12 concession snacks should allow you to enjoy baseball at reasonable prices.