The original Florida Suncoast Dome was opened to the public on March 3, 1990, at a cost of $138 million. It became the ThunderDome in 1993 with the arrival of the area's National Hockey League expansion franchise, the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was renamed Tropicana Field on Oct. 4, 1996, in accordance with a naming rights agreement between the Rays and Tropicana Dole Beverages North America, located in Bradenton.
Though originally built for baseball, there have been 16 other sports and competitions presented in the facility. These include hockey, basketball, football, sprint car racing, gymnastics, soccer, tennis, weightlifting, ping-pong, karate, motorcycle racing, equestrian events, track and figure skating.
The facility has set attendance records in a number of sports. During their three seasons playing in the building, the Lightning established the top 20 attendance marks in NHL history. On April 23, 1996, a crowd of 28,183 attended Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Lightning and the Philadelphia Flyers - the largest single-game attendance figure in NHL history.
The Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm set all its records while playing in the facility, including the largest single-game record of 28,746. In 1990, Davis Cup tennis was played at the dome, with a record crowd of 53,150 attending the three-day event. Also in 1990, 25,710 NBA fans saw the Chicago Bulls play an exhibition game against the Seattle Supersonics in what was then the largest crowd ever to attend a basketball game in the state of Florida. That figure was surpassed first by the 26,102 who attended the 1994 first-round NCAA Regionals, then again on March 20 and 22, 1998, when sellout crowds of 40,589 - a record for a non-Final Four game - watched the NCAA Regional and semifinal games featuring Syracuse, UCLA, Duke and Kentucky. The 1999 Final Four, featuring Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State and eventual-champion Connecticut, drew capacity crowds of 40,632 and 39,113 on March 27 and 29. The largest crowd to date - 47,150 - appeared at the Aug. 11, 1990, concert featuring The New Kids on the Block.
Tropicana Field closed its doors in October 1996 for a 17-month, $85 million facelift that transformed the facility from functional to intriguingly innovative, incorporating baseball traditions throughout the dining, shopping and entertainment complex while adding 319,000 square feet of space.
In 2006, the Rays spent more than $10 million on improvements to Tropicana Field. The renovations included major overhauls to all of the bathrooms on the 100 and 200 levels, new lighting, new fixtures, new wall treatments, a new premium seating club, changes to the press box, and much more. In addition, interactive baseball-themed areas were added throughout the ballpark for families to enjoy a new kind of fan experience.
Between 2013-14 the Rays improved the Tropicana Field experience with 360-degree pedestrian circulation around the lower seating bowl. The improved circulation provided easier access to and from ballpark gates, concessions and activity areas throughout the facility. The renovations also include a patio in center field with views of the playing field.