It’s been a while since Mark Shapiro mentioned anything about renovations at Rogers Centre. Understandably, most of the Blue Jays’ efforts have been focused on the $80 million renovations at the club’s spring training facility in Dunedin.
In the meantime, there will be some short-term renovations at the dome this year, but the Rogers Centre is still in desperate need of a drastic facelift. If the Blue Jays aren’t planning to build a brand new stadium, it will take hundreds of millions to bring the Rogers Centre into the 21st century of MLB ballparks.
There haven’t been any concrete plans laid out for long-term renovations at the Rogers Centre, and for good reason; it likely involves more than just the stadium itself. A grander project appears to be in the works surrounding the Rogers Centre.
Mark Shapiro made some interesting comments to reporters last week and Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com picked up on a few clues left by the president and CEO of the Blue Jays.
“We continue to talk about some other larger-scale issues. We’re obviously doing the premium club as well. But the larger-scale project is mainly being run and taken over at an ownership level because it is large in scale. It does involve more than Rogers Centre. That’s really the extent that I can talk about it right now.
I’m excited for us to get involved in that when the time is right, but we’re moving on undeterred and thinking about ‘How do we improve the building year to year,’ and this year we will unveil quite a few changes to that building.”
“It is large in scale” could mean any number of things, but one can deduce that Shapiro is referring to the Rail Deck Park project near Toronto’s waterfront. It would be Toronto’s answer to Central Park; a 21.7-acre green space area in the heart of the entertainment district.
According to a press release from Stantec — the consulting company on this project — the Rail Deck Park will cost upwards of $1.7 billion. There’s no timeline in place for completion, but Stantec says the next phase will be complete later this spring to utilize the unused space above the tracks between Bathurst Street and Blue Jays Way.
Coincidentally, the rail corridor runs directly north of the Rogers Centre and the space surrounding the stadium. The Rogers Centre and CN Tower would unquestionably be a large focal point of this endeavour, which jives with Shapiro’s comments about large-scale renovations that “involve more than Rogers Centre”.
It all makes sense as to why updates have been few and far between on an announcement about Rogers Centre renovations. Since this is such a huge undertaking, both in scale and in cost, it’s going to take a long time for the Rail Deck Park to get off the ground.
While they’re waiting, the Blue Jays have made some infrastructure-related renovations to the stadium. Over the winter, they installed a new roof membrane, waterproofing around the stadium’s foundation and completed construction on the Ticketmaster Lounge.
It’s fun to imagine how this new green space would work with the Rogers Centre. Shi Davidi wrote about this for Sportset back in August, but he wonders whether Rogers might try to get in on the Rail Deck park project and develop part of the land around the stadium. Davidi also muses whether the Jays might attempt to create a similar space as Jurassic Park out in front of Scotiabank Arena.
This all makes complete sense, as there’s precious little land close to Toronto’s waterfront. As out-of-date as the Rogers Centre is, it’s location is simply too appealing as opposed to finding real estate and moving elsewhere. Opening up land above the tracks seems like the perfect compromise.
One interesting idea — and this is just navel-gazing here — what if the Blue Jays were to re-align the field so that it faces towards the Rail Deck Park? That could involve shifting the field entirely, maybe that means opening up the concourse to create a huge open-air section on the north-west side of the stadium.
Unless they’re going to pivot the field, there’s no reason to open up the sightlines because there’s nothing but condos surrounding most of the Rogers Centre. I’m not positive there wouldn’t be condos in the way even if they shifted the field, but it’s something to consider.
PNC Park has a beautiful view of Pittsburgh’s skyline and the Allegheny River. AT&T Park has that gorgeous shot of McCovey Cove. What if the Rogers Centre could look out into a Central Park-like green space with the Rail Deck Park? That would be something Blue Jays fans could brag about.