The Toronto Blue Jays are replacing the infield artificial turf at Rogers Centre with regulation dirt basepaths for the 2016 season, as the transition to a grass playing surface could be in the works if deemed feasible after a current study.
The cement floor at Rogers Centre in the basepaths will be removed, with 12 inches comprising layers of gravel, sand and clay will be installed in the excavated areas. All in all, an area of approximately 12,000 square feet will be configured to ensure proper moisture content and conditions suitable to a major-league playing surface. The infield and outfield will be unchanged, with AstroTurf 3D Xtreme (first installed in 2015) to remain.
“We are very excited to proceed with this project,” said Stephen Brooks, Senior Vice President, Business Operations, in a press release. “This will both improve the surface for the players and also enhance the atmosphere of the stadium for our fans.”
Rogers Centre is the only MLB ballpark with synthetic turf in the basepaths; Tropicana Field also sports synthetic turf, but the basepaths are dirt.
It’s no secret the Blue Jays front office wants to see a move to real grass in coming years; Paul Beeston had held out grass as a goal, and new team president Mark Shapiro has also talked about making over Rogers Centre. The issue: there’s currently no drainage system under the synthetic turf, and the need to reconfigure the grandstand to accommodate CFL football in the form of the Toronto Argonauts has prevented any changes. (In a unique configuration, the grandstand splits to make enough room for the longer CFL field.) At one point it seemed like a turf field was an inevitability, with the Argos moving to BMO Field (home of MLS’s Toronto FC) for the 2016 season, but the team is holding off on any final decisions until a University of Guelph report details the feasibility of the ballpark reconfiguration to allow for natural turf.