Rays shrink seating capacity at Tropicana Field



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Tropicana Field - Tampa Bay Rays Image: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays announced early January that they are eliminating all of the upper-deck seats at Tropicana Field, dramatically shrinking the capacity of what was already the smallest stadium in Major League Baseball.

The Rays described the change in a news release as part of a series of “improvements and renovations” that team president Matt Silverman said will “help create a more intimate, entertaining and appealing experience for our fans.”

According to the release, Tropicana Field will have an estimated capacity between 25,000 and 26,000 when the renovations are complete — a reduction of at least 5,000 seats from its previous capacity of 31,042. The next smallest stadium in MLB, Progressive Field in Cleveland, has an listed capacity of 35,041.

The Rays also plan to improve lighting throughout the stadium and turn a previously-tarped section of seats into a common area called “the Left Field Ledge,” according to the release.

The Rays’ proposed stadium in the Ybor City area of Tampa – which the club last month declared will not move forward – also called for the smallest capacity in the major leagues. The $892 million project included just 28,216 seats and a total capacity of 30,842.

Tampa Bay averaged just 14,258 fans per home game in 2018, which ranked 29th out of 30 teams, and the club has ranked last or second-to-last in average attendance every year since 2011. It’s gotten to the point that even a prominent Rays player, Tommy Pham, is speaking openly about the lack of fan support.

“It sucks going from playing in front of a great fan base to a team with really no fan base at all,” Pham, who previously played for the St. Louis Cardinals, said in a SiriusXM interview last week. “St. Louis, they’re one of the few teams to where day in and day out they have 40,000 fans at every game. That’s something that I miss.”

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