The Toronto Blue Jays have now spent 30 years at Rogers Centre, the retractable-roof ballpark that was once a marvel but has become the subject of calls for upgrades.
On June 5, 1989, the Blue Jays played their first game at what was then known as the SkyDome, losing 5-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers. As a multipurpose, retractable-roof baseball/football facility with modern amenities, the SkyDome–which was not renamed Rogers Centre until 2005–was a marvel in Major League Baseball. The standards for ballparks would soon change, however, with the league shifting toward baseball-only facilities, Oriole Park at Camden Yards opening in 1992 to start the retro design movement, and later retractable-roof venues surpassing Rogers Centre in terms of design and amenities.
In more recent years, many–including MLB commissioner Rob Manfred–have suggested that it is time to renovate Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays have expressed interest in eventually doing so, but have yet to move forward with concrete plans for a major upgrade. While the renovation plan that many are seeking has yet to materialize, there are still some positives to Rogers Centre. Its location puts it within a bustling section of downtown Toronto, and its retractable-roof design serves well in Toronto’s climate. More from Sportsnet:
The Rogers Centre sits on Canada Lands Company property zoned for stadium use only on a 99-year lease that runs through 2088.
So until the Blue Jays find the money for a wide-scale refurbishment, they’re left to make incremental improvements to the fan experience – better concessions, modernized signage, a fancy new lounge behind home plate where the old press box used to be – while taking care of structural needs such as waterproofing and relining the roof.
All of which makes all that it still offers so easy to forget.
“The location is as key to it as anything else,” said [Blue Jays’ president emeritus Paul] Beeston. “It’s downtown, in an area which is getting more and more vibrant as we go. The stadium works, I think the improvements they’ve made will make it acceptable for us. What you’ve got to remember is, which I don’t think anybody anticipated, the season starts in March. I don’t want to get into global warming and climate change because I’m not that smart. But what we saw in April and May, what we would do without this roof? We played our games and we played them on time. It’s not Camden Yards, it’s not Oracle Park, it’s not PNC Park but it works for us and it works for the city.”
Some of Rogers Centre’s existing advantages–including its location–are part of what make it an intriguing candidate for renovations, and perhaps we could see action on major upgrades once the Blue Jays come up with a plan that they feel will work financially. For now, however, the franchise can celebrate the anniversary of a ballpark that has been the site of plenty of great memories over the last 30 seasons, including World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 and other memorable moments.
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