New Rays ballpark plans include a transparent roof and sliding glass walls

Yahoo Sports

It’s no secret that Tropicana Field hasn’t been the best home for the Tampa Bay Rays. Between the turf, the catwalks, and the cavernous feel, it leaves a lot to be desired. None of those things will be found in the Rays’ brand new ballpark in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa Bay, at least according to the plans the team revealed on Tuesday.

Next generation ballpark

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While every team that introduces a new ballpark design says “this is unlike anything baseball has ever seen,” in this case it might be true. The plan for this park, which the Rays project will open in 2023, calls for a nearly transparent ballpark experience, with sliding glass walls to “let the outside in and the inside out.” The park will be permanently enclosed and climate controlled, and the renderings are striking.

A rendering for the new Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Ybor City. (Twitter/@RaysBaseball)
A rendering for the new Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Ybor City. (Twitter/@RaysBaseball)

Aside from the quality and the beauty of the stadium, the biggest difference from Tropicana Field is the capacity. The new stadium will hold a total of 30,842 people, the smallest in all of baseball.

It’s definitely going to be an intimate experience. The Trop can hold over 42,000, so this is a significant reduction.

The number of seats aren’t the only reason it will be an intimate experience. The plans for the new stadium include the shortest “nose to field” distance of any park built since the 1940s, which would put it third in baseball behind Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.

There were a lot of plans thrown out at the event, like seats on a sandy area, seats positioned right inside a fountain, picnic seating, and bullpen bars that would allow for interaction with the players. (Just what the players want, I’m sure.)

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg emphasized that the building “will be of, by and for the people.” At this point, the Rays intend to make many areas of the ballpark available for year round use for the community and businesses. The window-filled concourse would be open 24/7, and when the playing surface isn’t in use, it would be used as a community park. 

What about the roof?

One of the biggest issues with Tropicana Field is the roof. It’s immovable, and balls interact with the catwalk, affecting the outcome of games. So the new stadium has… a permanently closed, immovable roof. During the presentation, the Rays said that several designs for retractable roofs were explored, but none made sense cost-wise. So they settled for a transparent roof. It will let in a lot of natural light, but there’s one big downside: there will still be no live grass for the Rays to play on.

Is this actually going to happen?

As firm as the plans sound, this is the stage when everything is optimistic. There are lots of promises being made about accessibility, transportation and parking, about the building fitting in with the rest of Ybor City, about concourses being open to the public 24/7, and more. Everything sounds great, but at this stage, the stadium and all the plans exist only on paper.

There’s good reason to question how and when these plans will stop being plans and start being actual construction and progress. At the top of the list? No one knows how the ballpark will be funded. The Rays announced on Tuesday that the park will cost $809 million, with $244 of that devoted to the roof alone. Infrastructure will bring the total project cost to $892 million.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times said that the Rays have floated a figure of $150 million for their contribution, but that’s far from a firm number. And it leaves between $659 million and $792 million unpaid, with the team admitting on Tuesday that they’re not sure how the park is going to be funded.

Also, this is far from the first time the Rays have announced new ballpark plans. The very first post that went live on Yahoo Sports’ Big League Stew (RIP) in 2008 was an announcement of new ballpark plans. Four years later, the Rays announced new plans yet again. This is no one’s first rodeo, and past events would dictate caution.

But at the very least, the Rays have a site for their ballpark that suits their needs, and Ybor City is on board with it. That’s progress. If the Rays can do it, maybe there’s still hope that the Oakland Athletics can find a suitable site for their long-awaited new ballpark.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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