Results tagged ‘ Florida Suncoast Dome ’

Tropicana Field’s Tract has an Unfortunate History, but Maybe Not “Cursed”.

When people asked me if Tropicana Field is cursed, I sometimes do not know what to tell them. I guess it depends on what you consider a “curse”, and what you consider a flaw in judgment or design. Either way, I think the tilted cap in St. Petersburg, Florida has had it run of bad luck, obscure historical factions, and maybe a few disgruntled former residents both in and out of the dirt.

The word “cursed” to me definitely bring out negative energy, and with the rash of recent injuries, some downright insane, I can see the logic for people thinking this place might need a exorcism or sage cleansing ritual. Cursed is a powerful word. One that drums up evil intentions and vibrations that can come from both above or below the sandy soil of this region. For that matter, possibly the Trop is cursed per se, but only because of the past inhabitants or procedures done on this site before the stadium was erected.

People forget the long history of the corner of 16th Street and First Avenue South. Before the city of St. Petersburg decided to erect this futuristic arena to attract the eye of a Major League Baseball tenant to come play among the filtered Sun streams in 72 degree splendor, there was plenty of prior notion and movement that could have conjured up hostile spirits both dead and alive.

Some tales say a resident of a Caribbean nation practiced rituals condemning the new construction on the site of her former low-cost housing development bulldozed down after city officials ruled it was in the way of the progress of baseball. Whispers went through the wind that such rituals were performed on the construction grounds and might be the basis of any curse.


Still even earlier before the housing unit was even a figment in anyone’s mind, 3 different cemeteries called this area their final resting places. Oakland, Evergreen and Moffet occupied the rolling acreage that is now home to the cars, trucks of those gathering to watch Tampa Bay Rays games. These cemeteries held the final resting places of Civil War veterans, founding community leaders of this city, and was the local burial ground for the Sugar Hill and Gas Plant district long before the city spread out towards the Gulf waters.

In 1958, some 150 interned souls from the Moffet,225 from Evergreen were suppose to be transferred to the local Lincoln Cemetery to make way for the impending low-cost housing community. There is little or no reference to what might have happened to the souls who occupied plots in the Oakland Cemetery, even after the construction started on the Laurel Park housing complex. Ironically, this was the same complex razed in 1990 to make way for the new stadium.

People forget this site used to be the City of St. Petersburg’s Gas Plant site in which two steel towers supported massive natural gas cylinders that towered over the region long before the downtown development went skywards. The aftermath of this contamination left by the residue of decades of gas deposits made the soil more like muck and it’s leakage down into the soil cost the St. Petersburg taxpayer’s a large sum of money to clean this area up enough to build a stadium without health concerns now or in the future.

Even as construction began on the 175 off-ramp from I-275 in February 1976, a construction crew found old leg,arm and a ribcage while doing road prep. Old coffins, gravestones and even a human skull were discovered by road crews preparing the surfaces for the impending Interstate finger into the heart of the town. All within a Carlos Pena Home Run distance from the Trop’s Rotunda. Some even say unmarked graves, and their residents might still be scattered 6 feet under in and around the Trop’s location. But even if these interned souls linger under the asphalt and cement, this doesn’t make the Trop or the Rays “cursed”.

Sure bad vibes could still be lingering from past souls, displaced families and resident of Laurel Park, but that probably doesn’t have any relationship to the recent odd happenings with this team or its players. Will Rhymes fainting into the arms of First Base Coach George Hendricks did not show or maintain possession features. Jeff Keppinger getting blasted in his right foot by a foul ball while sitting in the Rays dugout doesn’t portray demonic intentions or a “curse” interaction.

Sometimes the action of someone saying a place is “cursed”, filled with negative energy or evil intent can spread like wildfire and then some begin to believe not only the hype, but the past lore that pre-dated this stadium. The recent run of bad luck or cursed behavior witnessed by the Rays players and their fans is more psychological than physical right now. Sure injuries are happening, but is the spirit of St. Petersburg founder John Williams causing them. Could a Civil War veteran be the cause of all this recent injuries, or is it just the plain fact this team has been riding a lucky star for so long, a little mis-guided mojo gets referred to as a curse.

It all depends on your beliefs on if the past leads us during our present, or if we are deemed to repeat the past complete with good, evil and occasional accidents guided by prior events or entities. I guess the reality is that each of us has to decide for themselves their own conclusions, reasonings or justifications for the recent injury plague. Whatever you final conclusion be it a curse, coincidence or just plain bad mojo, Tropicana Field will always have distractors, haters and people who want to conjure up this stadium’s evil catwalks, demonic light fixtures and the horrific sight of Raymond’s blue fur. Everyone has their opinion, but I do not think this team is cursed or even damned…….anymore.

Safeco Field Should be the Rays Stadium Benchmark


By now most of you who have read any of my 1,111 posts know of my starry-eyed glazed look when it comes to Safeco Field in Seattle. It is one of my favorite all-time Major League Baseball fields. From the pure excitement of the breath-taking sight lines just beyond the top tier of the Leftfield bleachers that look out into this great city from the lifeline of the elevated Alaskan Way, to the pristine waves and vessels moving about on Puget Sound, outside of Tampa Bay, this is my paradise lost.

Anytime anyone, even the local media bloodhounds bring up the idea or issues concerning a possible new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, visions of Safeco go dancing around my head.

With its massive roof mechanism and wheels that churn and burn to open and close their massive roof, to the amenities aimed at the fan’s enjoyment of the ballpark, Safeco is the model I conjure up as a foundation for any future Rays stadium plans. Sorry but the sail idea has left for a port of call somewhere else…possible Japan.

Everywhere within this stadium is a swirling dervish of beauty. From the “Bat in Motion” sculpture above your head as you transcend into the ballpark, to the imprint of signed baseball from the Mariner’s team permanently placed within the points of the marble compass in the floor, Safeco was built for visitor’s and locals alike to gawk and remember forever.

Within the hallowed walls of the exclusive Diamond Club sits a classic photo of Yankee greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth poised at the back of a fishing boat just beyond the shores of Pass-a-Grille, Florida.  It is one of the only photos of the two legendary stars off the field, even though they both lived in the penthouse apartments at the Ponce de Leon Hotel on Central and First Street just to the West of the old Waterfront Ballpark. Funny how a small sliver of Tampa Bay slipped into the magnificent Pacific Northwest achievement.

From a concourse that runs a full 360 degrees around the stadium, that always gives guests a clear visual sight lines to the playing field to witness a play unfold while standing in line for Rally Fries or a cold Red Hook.

I often daydream that this should have been the stadium style originally set upon the tract of land at 16th Street and First Avenue South in St. Petersburg, Florida, but the Tampa Bay community leaders called for a futuristic and modernistic ballpark.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon recently cited during his banter about the Rays needing a new abode/stadium that it should feature a roof system that could be opened on sunny Florida days and evenings, and provide possible shade or comfort from the Sun and elements for a baseball complex or park just beyond the ballpark walls. Seattle has that feature, but it is not a park that is covered when the roof is open, it is the staff and player’s parking area. But I like Maddon’s thought process here.

It shows again how someone within the Rays organization might have the same affection for this ballpark style that I do. Even in the crowded SoDo neighborhood where Safeco Field is located, sometimes parking is a premium. But the Mariners helped relieve this burden by building a 6-story parking facility just to the South of Safeco, which also has its own pedestrian bridge to stadium gates.

Did you know original drawings for Tropicana field also had 2-3 story parking garages to help eliminate parking hassles. Wonder when and where that idea got flushed out into the bay?

If the Rays truly want a 1-stop shop of stadium ideas and great features to incorporate into their future plans, Safeco has 60 % of their “wish list”. From the ample suites that ring the upper core of the stadium, to the old time ballpark feel of the Press Box area complete with roll-up windows, This stadium has something for everyone.

Ironically, the Mariners played in a dome a bit similar to the Trop a long time ago, and I still at times go and check out the video of the Kingdome’s final implosion.

I still think in the deep recesses of my soul if the Tampa Bay community did not act with premeditation and “build it and they will come” mentality, this stadium design might sit in front of us nightly for Rays games. Everything about Safeco could be retrofitted or designed to conform with the Florida’s fickle weather.

Humor me here for a moment and day dream on how he National media would not be calling out the catwalks, giggling about lamps busted by foul balls, or Bullpens in the field of play. Safeco somehow magically has taken the Trop’s visual faults and made them simply mute for the media fodder. Only thing the media can complain about is if they jaywalk on their way out of the building. Seattle doesn’t take kindly to jaywalkers. Just ask Chicago White Sox GN Ken Williams.

Even with the Rays Fan Host doing a superior job compared to so many other MLB ballparks, Safeco’s ushers do something I truly find remarkable, and warranted for fan enjoyment. When a hitter plants his toes in the batter’s box, the ushers in unison hoist up a placard prohibiting the disturbance of the fans by walking in the aisles. At Safeco, you are not allowed to walk up or down the aisle to or from the concourse while a hitter is in the box.

Brings about a different take knowing Joe Schmoe is not going to walk in front of you with his nachos or beers and you miss a swing, a hit or possibly a historic moment. Instead you have to stand at the top of the aisle with the rest of the Safeco faithful hoping for a quick at bat, pop-up or 6-4-3 double play.

The modernistic stadium design and motif of the Trop never caught on after Major League Baseball went suddenly into a revival of traditional ballpark styles right after the completion of the Florida Suncoast Dome The wide-eyed vision of a modern design ballpark fell sudden to a untimely and painful death.

Safeco Field should be a constant reminder that local styles, influences and weather conditions can produce a stellar ballpark that even 25 years later people walk in a gawk at the visual eye-candy. I miss Safeco some times, especially since I truly feel that if it was built in 1991 or beyond, I would have been sitting in its majestic splendor for the last 14 seasons.

Hopefully the Rays front office will take hundreds of photos of this landmark ballpark, make inquires into its design cost and realistic structural possibilities within the scope of the harsh Florida Sun and weather. Possibly one day  we could see a future Tampa Bay ballpark being built with the similar fan-friendly quality’s and retracting roof of this exciting park nestled some 3,125 miles to our Northwest.  Or maybe I am still daydreaming.

Central Pinellas Site is Still Perfect for Convention Center/ Stadium


Over the last 30 years during my road trips on I-275 over the Howard Franklin Bridge towards Pinellas County/St. Petersburg, my eyes have always been drawn towards a particular densely swampy parcel of land just opposite of the long abandoned Florida Welcome Center.

I have always puzzled me why some savvy developer/builder had not previously bought or built something amazing on this prime slab of real estate nestled just outside the mangrove wetlands.
It simply astonishes that this parcel of tall grass had not been the jewel of someone’s fast money making scheme, and was not being held vacant because of possible salt water intrusion or interrupting the natural flow of the the mangroves thickets lining the Southern most edges of this parcel.  

Sure I have seen a few scattered condo communities and office buildings spring up just off this uneven and sometimes water-soaked parcel, but even with the prospect of future encroachment by modern civilization to its grasses, this pact of land has remained pretty consistant and dormant for several decades. 

Even as I gaze upon this large parcel this afternoon, my vivid and wild imagination envisions a plethora of possibilities of what could one day be built upon this land. That one day a calling card monument could be built upon this land and become a regional welcoming beacon to travelers cruising Southbound on I-275 just a click beyond the Ulmerton Road and 9th Street exit ramps towards the hamlets of mid Pinellas County and St. Petersburg. 

Why has this massive singular parcel withstood the rush of greed and easy money to somehow be sparred by the decades of real estate speculation and explosions to remain clear and free of development?

Was there a wise benefactor, or  a possible (hopefully) dealbreaker botched by someone stuck somewhere within one of the neighboring office buildings without adequate windows to not build, sell or even excavate this lush green segment off the tip of the Howard Franklin Bridge.
Could it possibly be held in secret by a sly developer or real estate mastermind for the rebound of the real estate market future with visions of dollar signs dancing through his head. 


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Could someone have really envisioned so far into the future that this same parcel could one day  be the site of a great architectural symbol of the Tampa Bay region built upon its sandy soil and forever be known throughout the World for its construction on this very site?

That this same piece of land could one day possibly house the benchmark in stadium “green technology” while also communing and embracing the surrounding mangroves and oyster beds to showcase that man and nature can systematically co-exsist, even with the intrusion of sports just beyond the shallow canoe trails and tide pools? 

It is a divine miracle this same plot did not go under the blades of a bulldozer or excavator before now. For the sake of total honest here, this same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980’s when the discussion first came up for the site of the proposed multi-use stadium that would evolve into the Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field. It was just built 9 miles in the wrong direction. 

It is so wild that this little preserved parcel of land could one day be considered as the perfect centerpiece parcel for the building or state-of-the-art stadium/convention center facility that the Tampa Bay community has been seeking for so long.

It is still a bit mindboggling to me that this parcel of land has stood the epic test of Florida’s construction explosion and is still standing here, undeveloped. It might just be the perfect location to make both sides of Tampa Bay again embrace baseball with open arms from both sides of the pristine blue waters. 


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It is simply unimaginable that at this very location lies within a few feet of this region’s highest traveled throughfares, with great infrastructural groundwork already being done to improve the area’s roads and room for possible additional external ramps for the future. 

This parcel might need a bit more subtle tweaking and upgrading to take on the extra burden of game day traffic along with the usual commuter congestion, plus maybe a few additional ground transportation options to and from all points around Tampa Bay. This parcel of land sits smack in the middle of a ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub. 

Even the odd thoughts of reliable forms of alternative transportation options might have been done by accident in the past, but could prove a bright shining star to showcase this parcel as a shining example of what a stadium site should envision.

Because of the already exisiting business district around the 28th Street/ Carillion Parkway hub, there is an established Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus route that serves the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land that could be greatly expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans or might even be fine tuned to the needs of a convention center/stadium complex. 

I personally like the idea of a year round Convention Center being constructed on the parcel to help bring an extra burst of daily activity to the stadium year round.  Top priority would have to be given to designing a feasible infrastructure support system to ease the demands of both I-275 traffic returning to and from Hillborough County at the 5 pm rush hour on game days. 

And if you really want to look into the future for possible traffic solutions, maybe the PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART) can combine their collective resources as a community unit and effectively create a regional remote parking lot alternative or establish a multiple-county transit solution to bringing fans to Rays games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout Tampa Bay. 


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The Pinellas County choice is simply ideal as it is situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but might prove a bit of a additional driving burden for people traveling North from Sarasota or Manatee Counties.

But if it is a state-of-the-art stadium with all the bells and whistles to entice corporate America to expand their involvement and support with the Rays, then we are all going to be winners in the long run. 

This beautiful parcel of land was left in it’s present state for some reason. It has withstood the Florida construction boom, stayed true to it’s natural roots for decades. Could this be the ultimate locale for the Rays future proposed stadium?

Can we finally put to rest the echoes of discontent by the citizens of Tampa to their “bridge phobia” or the hour long commute to games and finally bridge this stadium location into a unified show of community support by the Tampa Bay region on one potential site. 


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Next time you rush down Ulmerton Road on your way home from Tampa, look to the northwest and check out this parcel of land and see if you can see what I envision on that parcel….

A beautiful retractable roof stadium with a natural grass surface situated right off a main span of Interstate, but with a unique nightly background of distant flickering lights of the downtown buildings surrounding Tampa Bay from any sightline vantage points.This stadium debate can no longer remain silent or continue with each side of the bay proclaiming to the heavens that their stadium site location has some thin sliver of an advantage. This one site fulfills a lot of the criteria, is centerally located, and has breathtaking scenic nature views into the eustary that is Tampa Bay.

This location to me is perfectly suited to entertain the notion and the construction of a new masterpiece stadium for baseball. People soon forget that the first drawings of Tropicana Field had the stadium open to the elements on its southern sideWith Minnesota opening Target Field in 2010 and forever leaving the Metrodome, the Trop will be the last of a dying breed of domed stadiums within Major League Baseball. So maybe it was some sort of divine intervention that left  this parcel vacant for so long and loudly screams “baseball stadium” to me.

Hopefully it will be heard loud and long enough for even the multitudes of Rays fans in both counties to conclude….This would be a great parcel of land for the future home of Rays baseball. 

 

Could Tropicana Field change it’s Name?

 
 
I was extremely surprised today when the Florida Fairgrounds head honcho David Harb announced earlier today the completion of a naming change for their semi-covered outdoor concert venue from the Ford Amphitheatre to the 1-800 Ask Gary Amphitheatre. Guess if we ever hit the road for a concert now over in East Tampa, we can refer the venue as the “Gary”. But that brings up some interesting questions.

If the Florida Fairgrounds can change their venues name, what is stopping the Rays from maybe ending their relationship with Tropicana/Dole Brands and maybe throwing a new name on the dome the Rays currently call home. This same enclosed arena has had three names since its inception, the Florida Suncoast Dome (1990-1993), the Thunder Dome (1993-1996), and it’s first commercially named rights holder, Tropicana Field (1996-?).

Bradenton’s own giant Tropicana Dole brands North America announced their naming rights deal on October 4, 1996 months before a baseball team ever set foot upon the turf in the 72 degree venue. There is no general mention that I could find today as to the extent or expiration of the Trop’s naming rights contract. And with Tropicana’s parent company Pepsico holding the “pouring rights” within the confines of Tropicana Field for the first 15-years, could there be a name change in the future for the Trop?

 

With the expiration of Pepsi’s “pouring” monopoly possibly ending in October 2011, could there be a wind of change among the signage at Tropicana Field? In all honestly, I see Pepsi and Tropicana extending and continue contributing and “pouring” at the Rays facilities for a long time. But sometimes a local company can make an instant name for itself by spending million of dollars every year for an instant advertising focal point that gets mentioned numerous times in every television and radio broadcast throughout not only Rays games, but in other events held at the dome after the Major League Baseball season ends.


So if the Tropicana/Pepsico relationship were to end…..What company or product would try and attach itself to the dome and makes its visibility explode into the Tampa Bay region. We know that Pepsi’s biggest rival Coca-Cola no longer has a huge dominance in the MLB parks, but would they attempt to push the Pepsico brands name off the stadium and maybe throw their own drink Powerade aid up on the stadium’s signage?

Of course all this conversation is actually all speculation and hypothetical thoughts considering Tropicana still has a firm naming rights deal in place, but if for some reason Pepsi was removed from the Trop’s concession stands after the 2011 season, would Tropicana pull themselves from the stadium’s signage as a sign of solidarity towards Pepsi? But of course this is all null and void since an agreement is solidly in place, and Tropicana has made no intention or conclusion to end their relationship with the Rays.

But with the new about the Amphitheatre at the Florida Fairgrounds changing its name, it brings up an interesting thought process of what would be the Rays stadium’s next name? With a new stadium on the increasing horizon, and conversations moving forward hopefully after the 2010 season, will the Rays carry the Tropicana name with them to a new home, or seek another identity for their new digs. Could the Rays want to wash the stigma away clean in their new stadium with no ties to Tropicana, or will the relationship still flourish as nothing ever changed. I could see a viable change to the Rays stadium naming rights when they vacate the current Tropicana Field dome.

 

Maybe it will be a investment banking name attached to the stadium, or possibly a large grocery chain. And considering the new stadium will house the best and brightest “green” energy alternatives at that moment, could a local power provider or even home improvement empire try and construct a new relationship with the Rays and push their visual agenda. Corporate revenues and sponsorships are critical in today’s fiscal environment not only for the team’s survival, but for their future. So it is a realistic thought that Tropicana Field will cease the moment the Rays play their last game under it’s white dome.


Could Pepsico maybe be innovative and try and attach one of their more wholesome environmentally friendly brands like Sobe into the mix for the name of a Rays future home. I kind of like the name Sobe Center, it flows right off your tongue like Sobe’s own Green tea product. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.

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