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ST. PETERSBURG - Devil Rays team president Matt Silverman wants fans to feel as if they're entering a different stadium when they step into Tropicana Field for the home opener Friday.
The dome's still there, but Silverman said the approximately $8-million of stadium modifications will make Tropicana Field more visually pleasing and enhance the way fans watch games.
"I think the changes are even more visible this year than last year," Silverman said. "There's more of a wow factor with this season's renovations."
The main changes are the new scoreboard in rightfield, which features a main video board that is nearly three times larger than the former one, and new FieldTurf that is supposed to look and play more like real grass.
"Last year, the focus was on changing the personality of the building, and it became friendlier and more energetic," Silverman said. "This year, the changes are dramatic to the visual sense with the new turf and the scoreboard and these other changes. When you walk into the bowl, you will have a different sensation."
The entire backdrop of the stadium will take on a different look. The new scoreboard, which has three video screens, including a main display that will measure 36' by 64' (the old board was 23' by 31'), spans nearly the entire rightfield stands.
The main display board will provide video content, highlight pitching matchups and show pitch speeds and other stats. Two horizontal strip boards crawl along the bottom corners of the scoreboard, below four rotating advertising boards.
The vertical starting lineup board that used to be above the Batter's Eye Restaurant in centerfield is replaced with an in-game box score video display board. Larger vertical ads will be framed in faux brick and connected by wrought iron to give, as Silverman calls it, an Ybor City theme.
The Rays are the first baseball team to install the FieldTurf "Duo" system, the newest version of the artificial surface.
The Rays also lowered the height of the wall in the leftfield corner from 9 to 5 feet to give leftfielder Carl Crawford a chance to catch more balls down the line.
The seating area in the upper deck of leftfield, formerly known as The Beach, will be renamed the tbt* Party Deck. The area will also have an Ybor City look, with faux brick, lamp posts and a dance floor.
The area behind the leftfield bullpen area will take on a beach theme, a renovation of the rightfield concourse is in the works and a landscaping project outside the Trop is scheduled to be completed by the home opener.