Under The Big Top

Urban Explorer Handbook 2006

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click to enlarge BABY STEP: Yes, that's a step. Don't wear heels. - Max Linsky
Max Linsky
BABY STEP: Yes, that's a step. Don't wear heels.

Where: The Catwalks, aka The Rings, at Tropicana Field

Public access: Unless you're a stadium architect or a member of the Rays, don't count on it.

Element of danger: High. The Tension Ring at the very top of the dome could spell your doom with one misstep. The A, B, C and D rings lose a few points because of their handy railings, but if you still manage to somehow fall, you can kiss your skull goodbye.

Why we went: The view is killer (figuratively, of course; no one's plunged to their death from the rings). And it's a helluva lot higher than it looks from the ground. Oh — and the rings sway in high winds, which is cool for adrenaline junkies.

What we discovered: That we're pussies. A distance of 265 feet from the ground, the Tension Ring was our original goal. We'd climbed countless metal grid-pattern steps — which are damn rickety — to the A Ring, just 75 feet from our destination, when we noticed the Tension Ring's lack of railing and what seemed to be a circular walkway best suited to an anorexic dwarf. So ... we chickened out. But cut us some slack; the A Ring is still far enough from the ground to trigger the kind of vertigo Hitchcock only dreamed of.

Conversion Manager Chris Raineri has been setting up the Trop for events since it opened in 1990. He's tough enough to be the Trop's main guy in the sky, yet patient and kind enough to understand when soft alternative newspaper reporters start whimpering like babies. Before we copped out, Chris graciously offered to take us onto the roof of the Dome, which, by the way, is not hard, but flexible fiberglass. This, Chris said, was "like walking on a trampoline." Make that a sloping trampoline. You can guess what our decision was.

However, based on how far we did go, the height, the view, the thrill of death — it's exhilarating stuff. It's also eerily quiet up in them thar rafters. Even with a few people milling about below, setting up for one event or another, sound seemed to drop away the higher we climbed. Or maybe it was simply overridden by the sound of pounding hearts and rushing blood caused by the serious workout we got.

Still, we know people who'd pay to be up there during a game, despite the possibility of getting beaned in the head by a ball traveling at 90 mph.

And yes, most of the rings are in play: If the ball hits the D or C ring in fair territory, it's a homer.

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