Around a year ago, in an excellent and comprehensive piece on the Rogers Centre roof for the Globe and Mail, Robert MacLeod reported that the club was “in the midst of putting the finishing touches on a massive retrofit.” Today (unless these nontraditional sources are passing on old news, which I’m not going to lie, I’m slightly afraid of), it’s been announced that said retrofit is complete!
Urban Toronto takes the details from a press release (I assume) and puts them into language a layman like myself can almost understand:
A crew of 30 worked for two years to carry out the much-needed roof upgrades, which include a new OT (Operations Technology) network and control system, as well as a rooftop weather station that tracks weather systems to better predict game-time conditions for roof openings and closings. The new OT network and control system comes with a reduction in the required number of staff to open or close the roof, as well as a 46% decrease in the time needed to operate the roof. Other valuable improvements include fault tolerance, self-diagnostics, and reporting capabilities not offered by the previous system, allowing for simplified troubleshooting.
Unsexy stuff, all of it! But it’s legitimately great news.
For years I’d heard from a Dome insider that the roof was a bigger problem than fans understood, and it turns out he was bang on. “Rogers Centre engineering manager Dave McCormick explained some parts and components had been discontinued over the years, making the original technology outdated and difficult to maintain,” says a piece today from Daily Commercial News, which echoes precisely what I’d been told.
There wasn’t just some warehouse somewhere with a bunch of spare SkyDome roof parts in it. And so, in 2012 when the roof got stuck open during a downpour, I remember going as far as wondering if there might come a day when the damn thing would have to be closed permanently.
Those worries, it seems, are now a thing of the past.
Whether this also translates to more open-air baseball, though, remains to be seen.
“Since the dome is sealed through the winter, testing of the roof can’t begin until all the snow and ice have melted. The mechanical parts that allow the roof to open and close contract in the cold, so consecutive warm-weather days of roughly 10C or higher are required before testing can begin,” wrote Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star in a piece in May of 2014. Jays then-senior VP, business operations, Stephen Brooks told him that “At around 10 degrees, if we were to open the roof, and the temperature then dropped, we risk not being able to close it.”
There’s nothing in today’s announcement about changes to how the roof responds in different temperatures, so I’m not sure we should just assume that we’ll be seeing the roof open earlier in the season going forward. But a more responsive roof with better weather prediction systems sure as hell should in theory allow the club to more freely open the roof when there’s a threat of rain.