The tbt* Party Deck

Tropicana Field has so little going for it. It’s the only
non-retractable roof dome left in major league baseball, and the game is played
on artificial turf to boot. Now that the Rays have let Carl Crawford go, it’s
doubtful that the team will be contending like they did not long ago, leaving
fewer reasons to attend the place.

So the Rays, like most teams in baseball, have to offer
special enticements to get people to sit in the worst seats in the venue. In
this case those seats are called the tbt* Party Deck, formerly known as the
Beach. The tbt* stands for Tampa Bay Times, a free tabloid-style newspaper arm
of the St. Petersburg Times. I still have no idea what the asterisk means.

These seats are in the highest level in left field; imagine
the view from the Green Monster seats at Fenway without the prestigious experience.
They are also excluded from the rest of the ballpark, meaning people with other
tickets can’t get in and you can’t get out. Not to mention that they’re bench
seats, great for touching cheeks with your neighbor.

So what’s the advantage of the tbt* Party Deck? Well, they
cost the same as the upper reserved tickets and are as such the cheapest seats
in the Trop. But the Rays also hosted special events there in 2010, like
College Night on non-prime Friday games, where you get a ticket for $5 and
10-ounce beers for $1 with a valid college ID. Or Networking Nights on
Thursdays, where your company can sign up and then give employees a code word for
a ticket and some networking opportunities with Rays people. Groups can pay a flat fee and get
free beer and food for their group throughout the game.

The tbt* Party Deck also features the “All You Care To Eat”
nights, which seems to be the standard dangling carrot to get fans to sit in lousy
seats for a sub-.500 team. Only $55! Is that even a bargain at ballpark food prices?

The tbt* Party Deck seats are the worst seats in one of baseball’s
lesser venues.

But you know what’s cool about baseball? You still see
people sitting in these seats. There seems to be a sense of belonging here. In
the same way that the super-royal-Legendary-Lexus box seats in the newer
ballparks give people a sense of belonging to an exclusive club distinguished
entirely by income level. Why pay $500 more to bond with someone? It is, after
all, still a ballgame.

I think I know which group I’d rather hang out with. A cell
phone addicted salesman who is still hashing out major deals in the top of
the sixth of a one-run game with two men on is not my type of ballgame
companion.

College kids could go just about anywhere outdoors in
Florida and have a better party atmosphere. People could network anywhere in
the Ybor City area in Tampa or somewhere in downtown St. Petersburg. But for
whatever reason, they’d rather go to a ballgame and sit miles away from the
action in an indoor stadium with artificial turf.

That’s my kind of fan.

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