Putting off the eventual decision on the future of the 1989 venue for now, the Toronto Blue Jays will move forward with two years of Rogers Centre renovations designed to extend the facility’s economic life for 10-15 years.
The Blue Jays have been evaluating the future of Rogers Centre for several years, shifting between building a new ballpark or undergoing a full renovation. With the success of The Battery and the subsequent real-estate plans put in place by the likes of the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels, it was clear Rogers Centre was potentially worth more as a real-estate platform than a working ballpark. The Rogers Centre footprint is huge—it take a lot of acreage to support that massive roof—and it became apparent quickly that the site is large enough both for a new, modern ballpark and plenty of real-estate development. Meeting with real-estate developers and architecture firms over the past year yielded a variety of plans, but with the shifting economy injecting uncertainty to the downtown Toronto market—i.e., will the future of development in urban core continue to focus on office space or shift to residential, and what’s the place of retail and hotels in all this—the decision was made to move from looking at a big-picture, billion-dollar plan to a more modest effort at renovations.
Modest, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, and when announcing the decision to pursue renovations, Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro didn’t put a price tag on changes, saying that the scope of the project needs to be finalized. The current plan calls for renovations to begin after the 2022 season and be ready for the 2024 season. Most of the work on the fan side will take place in the concourses and the lower bowl, with player facilities—clubhouses, workout spaces, training rooms, workout areas—to be upgraded as well. There’s no final budget in place, as design of the upgrades is still in the works.
A little history. When it opened as Skydome, the venue was built to accommodate both Blue Jays baseball and the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. That meant plenty of moving parts: besides the retractable roof, the grandstand widened on the home-plate side to create room for the longer and wider CFL football gridiron. Add some occasionally awkward sightlines to a Brutalist concrete-centric architectural style, and a Blue Jays game can be a less-than-ideal modern fan experience.
Now, we have seen some upgrades to Rogers Centre over the year in terms of more modern finishes and upgraded concessions spaces, and we’re guessing the planned renovations will feature more custom concourse space as well as upgrading seating sections in the bowl, potentially decreasing the current capacity of 53,506.
Shapiro announced the renovations at a Friday press conference in Dunedin, as the team is in the midst of spring training. He characterize the ultimate goal of the work to make Rogers Centre “more of a ballpark than a stadium,” deeming it a mid-term solution:
“It’s not the renovation for the next 50 years. It’s probably for the next 10 or 15 years but we’ll probably still have a stadium issue. It just gives us a good runway to deal with a complex issue.
“This gives us 15 years without compromising fan experience so it will be of high impact. It will be meaningful and a much better experience for our fans and our players.”
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