In July, the Tampa Bay Rays revealed plans for a proposed new stadium that would be built in Ybor City and be ready for play in 2023. The $892 million stadium was presented as a “next generation ballpark” that would include designs and features “unlike anything baseball has ever seen.” That includes sliding glass walls designed to “let the outside in and the inside out.”
According to a Tampa Bay Times report, it would also be built to be Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton proof.
The proposed stadium would be permanently enclosed like Tropicana Field and its peak would be about the same distance from the ground as Tropicana Field. However, the Tampa Bay Times reports that the similarities regarding the structures would end there, and the New York Yankees sluggers are cited as two of the biggest reasons why.
How do Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton factor in?
One of the main goals for Walter P. Moore, the structural engineering group overseeing the project, is to address the issue of fly balls hitting the dome or bouncing off of catwalks. Since the Rays began play at the Trop in 1998, at least 160 balls have hit a catwalk or a speaker attached to a catwalk. That’s 160 too many, according to the ballclub.
In the proposed stadium, there would be no catwalks like Tropicana Field. That’s one layer of the issue eliminated. However, the engineers are going the extra mile by studying Statscast data collected to model the flight path of over 7,000 fly balls hit in fair territory at the Tropicana Field.
Here’s where Judge and Stanton come in. Walter P. Moore has also studied data for every ball they’ve hit in every MLB ballpark hit in order to get the most complete information regarding launch angles and exit velocity. Judge and Stanton were chosen for obvious reasons. They’re likely the two strongest hitters in the league, and consistently produce the most extreme data and majestic fly balls.
“We wanted to make sure we caught any crazy outliers from the hardest hitters in baseball,” said Aaron White, a principal and director of digital practice in the firm’s structures group.
Their studies found that Judge and Stanton do indeed hit the ball higher and farther than most other MLB players. If they can build a structure that Judge and Stanton can’t touch, then they’ll obviously feel confident that others won’t be able to challenge it either.
Why a retractable roof isn’t an option
Some fans have questioned why the Rays wouldn’t consider a retractable roof for the proposed stadium. The thinking being a retractable roof would be out of the way from fly balls and would allow Rays fans to experience outdoor baseball from time-to-time.
According to the same Tampa Bay Times report, the designers studies have shown it simply wouldn’t be worthwhile.
“There would be really very limited opportunities to open an operable roof,” Rays’ chief development officer Melanie Lenz said.
A study done during stadium planning concluded that rain or lightning would affect 45 percent of daytime games and 61 percent of night games at an open-air Tampa ballpark. (For comparison, consider Marlins Park: During the 2017 season, six out of 78 home games started with the retractable roof open. That’s less than 8 percent. And, for what it’s worth, the Marlins lost all six of those games.)
To make up for the lack of true outdoor baseball, the designers made the roof translucent, with 30-foot-tall glass walls below the roofline that can be opened up on nice days.
As it stands, the roof is expected to account for $245 million of the $892 million total cost. The project has not yet been approved by the city of Tampa.
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