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Could Development Factor into Rogers Centre Renovations?

Toronto Blue Jays

While the Toronto Blue Jays have not unveiled plans for a Rogers Centre renovation, there are questions as to whether ballpark upgrades could be tied to a development plan. 

The sense for the last several years has been that the Blue Jays will eventually move forward with a renovation to Rogers Centre. The retractable-roof ballpark was something of a marvel when it first opened as the SkyDome in 1989, but its amenities are considered out-of-date by current Major League Baseball standards. While the Blue Jays have acknowledged their interest in a future renovation, the club has not announced formal plans to date.

A renovation project would surely lead to changes inside the ballpark, but perhaps Rogers Centre and Blue Jays owner Rogers Communications Inc. could also be involved a larger development initiative. Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro seemed to hint at ownership’s interest in the surrounding area during a Pitch Talks event in April, while Rogers Centre boasts a strong location in downtown Toronto. There are a few challenges, however, as Rogers owns the ballpark but not the land underneath, which is controlled by the Canada Lands Company (CLC) and is zoned only for the facility. There could be some alternatives, however, and the Rogers family has previously been involved in large real estate development. More from Sportsnet:

Precious little land beyond the footprint of the building falls under the Toronto Stadium Lands lot, which includes areas to the north, south and east of the building, but not the small square abutting the condo tower to the west, which is controlled by CLC. There’s a hotel attached to the north side of the stadium which could perhaps be transformed, but that would be complicated given that it’s a separate business.

The only area where there’s some space is in Roundhouse Park to the southeast of Rogers Centre, which is controlled by the City of Toronto. The city’s Real Estate Services Division administers the site, which houses a museum, a brewery and an entertainment and gaming venue.

One idea floated by a political insider is that Rogers Communications could try to jump into the city’s discussions around Rail Deck Park, an ambitious project that would cover the railway tracks from Bathurst Street to the west and Blue Jays Way to the east with a park. The project is still in its infancy stages, but it’s believed the city would need investments from the private sector in order to complete it….

A real estate venture wouldn’t be unprecedented for the Rogers family, which in 2016 invested in a $1.5-billion condo project in Mississauga. That investment came outside the company, which became a strategic vendor for the project.

There has been a trend of MLB teams being involved in development initiatives around their ballparks. The Battery Atlanta adjacent to the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park is one example, and a future instance could be the development concept the Colorado Rockies are currently pitching for an area outside of Coors Field. The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, are a partner in Texas Live!, a mixed-use development that surrounds Globe Life Park and will serve the retractable-roof Globe Life Field when it opens in 2020.

As for the inside of the Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays could look to make the facility more baseball friendly. The Rogers Centre was originally designed as a multi-purpose venue so that it could also host the Toronto Argonauts (Canadian Football League). The Argonauts no longer use Rogers Centre, however, as they moved into an expanded BMO Field in 2016. It would also seem that a Rogers Centre renovation could lead to additions such as social spaces and other modern amenities.

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