ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Agents have a new reason to recommend
the Tampa-St. Pete area to baseball fans. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays,
a major league expansion team, play their first game here March 31
against the Detroit Tigers.
In recent years, the area has offered spring training for the
New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia
The Devil Rays' home is Tropicana Field, originally known as the
ThunderDome, which was expanded and renovated at a cost of $70
On Feb. 15, the Devil Rays were to begin their spring training
in St. Petersburg (at Al Lang Stadium), becoming the first team to
conduct both training and regular-season play in the same city.
Although the Florida Marlins play in Miami, they train near
The Yankees' first home spring-training game is Feb. 27 at
10,000-seat Legends Field in Tampa; the Blue Jays open on Feb. 26
at 6,200-seat Grant Field in Dunedin, and the Phillies'
spring-training opener is Feb. 28 at 6,000-seat Jack Russell
Stadium in Clearwater.
Spring training opened last week and lasts through most of March
(peak tourist season).
The Devil Rays' regular season, however, is played during the
off-season, a period when Floridians like to vacation.
Agents in Florida and out of state have the opportunity to
package the games themselves or to book existing packages, which
likely will grow in number after the Devil Rays' first year.
Tropicana Field has 45,200 seats, with 22,000 reserved by
season-ticket holders, leaving more than 23,000 seats available for
Carole Ketterhagen, executive director of the St.
Petersburg-Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, called
the Devil Rays' games "the perfect family attraction to add to our
lineup of beaches and family activities."
The bureau is developing beach and baseball packages that will
enable agents to combine tickets and hotel rooms. The hotel portion
will be commissionable, she said.
In addition to hosting the baseball games, Ketterhagen said,
Tropicana Field will be a year-round attraction with interactive
entertainment areas, a cigar bar, a brew pub and a 350-seat
"The entire St. Petersburg-Clearwater area is getting involved
with everything from special exhibits at our historical museums to
baseball-themed concerts and theatrical performances," she
Steve Hayes, vice president of tourism marketing for the Tampa
Convention & Visitors Association, said that the nationwide
exposure generated by the Devil Rays would benefit Tampa and St.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Phone: (813) 825-3137
New York Yankees, Phone: (813) 879-2244
Toronto Blue Jays, Phone: (813) 733-0429
Philadelphia Phillies, Phone: (813) 442-8496