After 30 years, will the Rogers Centre get a facelift or will it be replaced?
It’s been just over a month since the Rogers Centre turned 30 and the facility is in need of a facelift—but Toronto Mayor John Tory says the future of the building is not yet known.
“I think you’re going to see some action because they have a decision to make, do they invest more in it or do they actually try to replace it?” Tory said yesterday on Newstalk 1010.
Repairs are made to the home of the Blue Jays on an ongoing basis, but for the last few years there has been some talk of how best to bring the Dome into the 21st century. Tory re-ignited the conversation about an entirely new ballpark yesterday when asked about the stadium’s future.
The big question was whether the building is worth saving or if a new stadium should be built. The mayor said that regardless of the decision, the city would not be footing a large part of the bill.
“The notion that you’re going to get a lot of big cheques or any cheques necessarily written by government to build a new stadium is not likely to happen,” he said. “Therefore they have to come up with a way to pay for it.”
The Rogers Centre is the seventh oldest stadium in Major League Baseball and considered by many to be one of the worst ballparks still in use.
The SkyDome, as it was originally called, was a modern engineering feat at the time it opened in 1989. Its retractable roof and seating area with a capacity of more than 50,000 was considered cutting edge, but shortly after the Dome opened, the league pivoted -- instead of building large, domed stadiums, teams began constructing “classic American ballparks.”
Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland opened shortly after the Dome and is considered the pioneer of this trend. It’s a baseball-only facility in the city’s downtown with open-air concourses, and it’s considered one of the best ball parks in the league.
But retrofitting the Rogers Centre to adapt more classic ballpark elements would be an expensive undertaking.
Building an entirely new ballpark may be more cost-efficient, but it’s unclear where it would be built. Downsview Park has long been considered an option. It would also free up land downtown to build more housing. But Tory says he’s not necessarily a fan of moving the stadium out of the downtown core.
“You can have real tailgating in Downsview, among other things,” he said. “But I just think before you immediately say ‘gee that land is more valuable for something else’ you might want to consider the positive impact having that stadium downtown has had over many years in the downtown of the biggest city in Canada.”
Tory credits the Rogers Centre, in part, to what he calls a vibrant downtown.
Another element in the future of the Rogers Centre is the ongoing redevelopment of the entire nearby area.
Last week, Oxford Properties announced a proposal to build a $3.5 billion mixed-use mega-development called Union Park, a four-acre site north of the Rogers Centre and CN Tower. It’s a project that faces a lengthy approvals process, but one that would transform downtown Toronto with a mix of residential and commercial properties, as well as two-acre rail deck park.
Speaking to BNN Bloomberg, Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro acknowledged that while the Rogers Centre is in decent shape, the fan experience could be improved.
“You need to be able to provide a family the best family experience, or a young person who wants to come for a bar environment, the best bar in Toronto,” he says. “Or the true blue fan who wants to have a purist experience.”
He says competition for sport entertainment dollars is high, and the Blue Jays need to better position themselves for a savvy consumer.
“I think as we evolve this stadium for the long haul…that’s what we’re going to think about.”
Shapiro says in the short-term, the team is committed to improving the Rogers Centre, and while he acknowledges bigger plans are in the works, he’s not divulging what those plans might look like.
“In the longer term there are some other plans we are continuing to work through with Rogers,” he said. “But we are trying to be really careful to make sure we don’t just do something, but we get it right for this fan base, for the long-haul.”