Tampa Bay Rays: Tropicana Field Yields More Controversy, Arguments for New Home

Douglas ChuramanCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2011

Structural rings, catwalks, lighting, speakers in play, affect game.
Structural rings, catwalks, lighting, speakers in play, affect game.

Tuesday night's game between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays hosted another argument for why the Rays need a new home to play baseball.

After shards of glass rained down during the ESPN Sunday Night 16-inning affair and technical difficulties delayed ESPN's Monday Night telecast, Tuesday night featured the Rays' roof and catwalk as unwelcome guests to the contest.

Early in Tuesday night's contest, with the Yankees batting, a ball in play that would be a routine fly ball in any other ball park struck a catwalk in foul territory, altering its path and causing it to fall harmlessly onto the field. Luckily for the Rays, that stolen opportunity for an out did not hurt them like it did last fall when a ball in play deflected by one of the support rings lifted the visiting Minnesota Twins to an unlikely win.

The roof did hurt the Yankees, however, when a routine fly ball was lost by center fielder Curtis Granderson that resulted in loading the bases. The Rays went on to score two runs, winning by a final of 3-2.

Sunday night saw a ball put in play by the Rays strike a halogen lamp, breaking it and sending sharp pieces of extremely hot glass onto the field that were difficult to handle due to the temperature.

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I have always believed the game of baseball should be played exclusively outdoors—that roofs do not belong as part of a major league ballpark. Yet this is a reality, and admittedly, some facilities do remarkable jobs creating indoor stadiums.

Chase Field, host of the recent 2011 MLB All-Star Game, is a good example of a simple indoor ballpark with no interference other than the roof itself—a facility that recently proved on a national stage during a premiere event that baseball can be played without interference from the facility. While the ball can be "lost" in the roof due the color similarity between the baseball and the roof, Chase Field, along with other indoor parks, do not harbor the same problems or frequency of such problems that appear at Tropicana Field.

The Rogers Centre is home to the Toronto Blue Jays, and while there is nothing spectacularly unique about it aside from its retractable roof, controversy concerning a baseball game is non-existent here.

Out of the six Major League Baseball organizations that have indoor ballparks, Tropicana Field is the only facility that does not have a retractable roof. In addition to the previously mentioned Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays, the Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers make up the five teams that play under retractable roofs.The latter three teams play at Safeco Field, Minute Maid Park and Miller Park, respectively.

Miller Park
Miller Park

Furthermore, Minute Maid and Miller Park both still offer natural lighting while the roof is closed, a major feature required in providing what experts would call a psychologically and biologically sound, comfortable environment for humans.

Tropicana Field is the only indoor ballpark that provides any significant controversy, and it does so with upsetting regularity. Structural rings and catwalks simply should not in any way affect a sporting event, and while lighting occasionally affects a player's ability to see a baseball in all ballparks, only at Tropicana Field has a bank of lights in play been struck and rained hot shards of glass onto the field.

Of course, one way to explain why Tropicana does not have a retractable roof could be that it was built in 1990 while Minute Maid Park, Safeco Field, Miller Park and Chase Field were constructed ranging from 1998 to 2001. However, Rogers Centre was built in 1989 with a retractable roof.

The case for a new stadium still remains wide open, whether it be in St. Petersburg or elsewhere, as talks of moving the team do exist.

In any case, the Rays organization and Major League Baseball must work on providing a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays to host visitors.

It is my opinion that a new stadium would be an outdoor facility, but should it be another indoor arena, it should include a retractable roof that is designed to not interfere with balls in play.

There are five other ballparks to call on as templates, meaning any new design that cannot provide those same amenities would be simply unacceptable and unfair to visiting teams, the Rays organization and baseball fans.

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