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Rays to eliminate 10,000 upper-deck seats at Tropicana Field

The Tampa Bay Rays have announced plans to reduce the capacity of Tropicana Field to upwards of 26,000 by eliminating 10,000 upper-deck seats.

The Rays intend to add additional premium seating in the lower decks, with the goal of providing fans with a more “intimate” baseball setting.

The Rays have long struggled to lure fans into Tropicana Field — a ballpark frequently derided as an extremely unfriendly environment to attend baseball games — which has been the team’s home since 1998.

The hope is the restructuring of Tropicana Field will entice fans to return.

“These renovations mark our continued commitment to providing a first-rate fan experience at Tropicana Field,” Rays president Matt Silverman said in a statement, via ESPN. “Together, in concert with the reduction in seating capacity, these investments will help create a more intimate, entertaining and appealing experience for our fans.”

Despite failing to resolved the organization’s significant stadium issues by a December deadline, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg will continue to explore options and locations for a potential new ballpark. The Rays have presently abandoned plans to construct a new stadium in the Tampa neighborhood Ybor City, although remaining in the city remains the organization’s goal.

“We’ll continue to look in Tampa Bay and we’ll put our efforts to that,” Sternberg said at the winter meetings. “One way or another we need to figure out a where the team is going to be in 2028, if not sooner. Ideally sooner. But absolutely by 2028.”

The move to close 10,000 upper-deck seats will reduce Tropicana Field’s capacity to somewhere between 25,000 and 26,000, by far the lowest in the majors.

The proposed seating reduction follows an approximate $15 million that has been spent over the last two years on ballpark renovations, according to the Rays’ statement, via the Tampa Bay Times.

Only the Miami Marlins posted lower attendance figures last season than the Rays. Tampa, despite posting a surprising 90-72 record (51-30 at home), averaged only 14,258 fans per game, a 7.9 percent decline. The Rays have finished dead-last in MLB attendance in all but two seasons since 2012.