Earlier this week, the Blue Jays officially announced the timeline for their renovated state-of-the-art Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Florida. It’s on track for completion ahead of the 2020 season and it’s an overdue overhaul for one of the most tired ballparks and Spring Training complexes.
That’s all well and good … but what about the other Blue Jays stadium some 2,000 kilometres away?
At 29 years old, the Rogers Centre is in desperate need of a drastic facelift as well. Retrofitting a nearly 30-year-old ballpark has two main obstacles; the large capital cost and the challenge of bringing a ballpark from 1989 into the 21st century.
It’s a gigantic undertaking that’s going to take years to complete and will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Earlier this week, there was some hint of what’s to come for the re-imaging of Rogers Centre, courtesy of comments made by Mark Shapiro on Tim and Sid.
These aren’t the wholesale changes fans are hoping for, but they look like incremental improvements ahead of the much larger-scale renovations in the coming years. Rather than a complete facelift, think of these short-term renovations as botox injections for the Rogers Centre.
A New Roof Membrane
Once falling ice punctured the Rogers Centre roof back in April, the Blue Jays had no choice but to replace the roof’s membrane. In recent weeks, cranes were spotted around the perimeter of the stadium working to replace sections of the outer membrane.
This isn’t very sexy news for fans, but it’s a necessary repair so the Rogers Centre roof doesn’t look like Swiss cheese and they’re forced to postpone another game due to weather.
Refresh of the 100 and 200 Level Concourse
These were fairly vague comments from Shapiro, but it’ll be interesting to see what constitutes a “refresh of the 100 and 200 level”. I can’t recall the last time the lower deck concourses were upgraded – of if they’ve ever been renovated at all.
Without any significant renovations over the next few years, it’s going to be difficult for the Blue Jays to drastically change the 100 and 200 Level experience. And yet, any change would be a welcome improvement.
New Concession Spaces
Most would agree that the concessions at Blue Jays games are “lacking” to say the least. Getting food at a Jays game isn’t much of an issue – there are concession stands everywhere – but the Jays could always improve the selection.
One interesting experiment the Blue Jays did last year was bringing in concessions from Toronto-based restaurants as a “pop-up shop” at a dedicated section. Cherry St. Bar-B-Que, Mi Taco Taqueira and Knuckle Sandwich.
Perhaps these “pop-up kitchen” concessions become a permanent fixture at the Rogers Centre, which would be a welcome alternative to the typical ballpark fare at the Rogers Centre.
New Premium Spaces
One of the biggest changes coming to the Rogers Centre for the 2019 season is the addition of premium seating on the 300 level directly behind home plate. What was once the press box is being renovated to extend the luxury suites across most of the 300 Level.
It makes perfect sense; seats behind home plate are some are some of the most valuable real estate in the ballpark. Evidently, people will pay very good money for that vantage point.
This section was once occupied by the Blue Jays media and as of 2019, they’ll be stationed over in the auxiliary press box by left field on the 200 level. I get that the Blue Jays are trying to drive more revenue here, but the press members no longer have a bird’s-eye view of the action. Instead, this is what they’ll see.
— Rob Longley (@longleysunsport) October 2, 2018
Sure, there are monitors everywhere that capture everything, but it seems less than ideal to have reporters 300 feet down the left field line trying to see what’s happening at home plate.
Waterproofing and Concrete Repair
There’s nothing more unexciting to the casual fan than infrastructure repair on their favourite team’s stadium, but here we are. One of the main repairs to the exterior of the stadium you may have noticed was repaving around the perimeter of the ballpark.
Shapiro also noted there’s some waterproofing work to be done on the foundation. This makes one wonder; if these types of grand-scale renovations take this long, you can only imagine how long it would take to install drainage if the Jays were ever to go with a grass field.