Does it seem like it’s been a long time since there’s been any headway about major renovations at Rogers Centre? It has been a long time. It’s been over two years since the Blue Jays have stated publicly about their desire to overhaul the 30-year-old stadium.
Every few months, there’s a morsel of information that trickles out, but this is the most concrete (see what I did there?) evidence we have yet that a major change at Rogers Centre will be ready for the 2020 Blue Jays season.
Mark Shapiro completed his media blitz yesterday, meeting with media and doing a few radio hits to update reporters and fans on the state of the franchise. Speaking on Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet 590 The Fan, Shapiro gave a clear picture of the next phase of Rogers Centre:
“I would hope as we move into the offseason messaging — about 7, 8, 10 weeks — we’ve got some strong announcements about fan-facing projects that will improve fan experience next year.
This year, we spent the bulk of the money putting on a new roof and finishing up waterproofing. Refreshing the 100 level concourse, which if you’ve been to a game, you’d know is dramatically different. And building a new premium club behind home plate.
Next year, we’ll have other changes that will affect our fans positively.”
These comments on Prime Time Sports weave into the path of breadcrumbs Shapiro left last month during his chat with BNN Bloomberg.
“We have some things in store for next year which may even have a bigger impact on fan experience which I’m not going to divulge right now. We’re still planning, but it will affect every minute of every game — put it that way — if we’re able to finish it.”
I have yet to understand what “fan-facing projects” means exactly, but one could interpret that phrase many ways. Just spit balling here, but projects like a second “fan deck”, a craft beer patio, or removal of seats would certainly qualify as a “fan-facing project.”
As cool as it would be to remove the AstroTurf, I’m less inclined to believe the renovation is something as drastic as installing a natural grass field because that doesn’t fall into the “fan experience” category.
If we want to dig a little deeper into the long-term possibilites for the stadium, according to city columnist Matt Elliott, “Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro has registered to lobby on “future plans for the Rogers Centre, the surrounding area, and City’s leasehold interest in the subject site.”
Earlier this week, Toronto councillor Joe Cressy spoke with David Rider of the Toronto Star and Cressy confirmed his meeting with Blue Jays officials “to chat ‘in broad terms’ about their plans for the 30-year-old domed stadium.”
The gist of that meeting was that the city emphasized their desire to keep the Rogers Centre in its current location and the fact that renovation costs would be privately funded.
There’s also the matter of the $3.5 billion project proposed by Oxford Properties surrounding the Rogers Centre. This isn’t the Rail Deck Park project per se, but would include a two-acre park above the rail line and would install three towers on the north side of the Rogers Centre.
In the meantime, Toronto’s Rail Deck Park has been green-lit, which proposed a 8.5 hectare park above the rail lines between Bathurst and Blue Jays Way. The Oxford Properties proposal for a park above the rail line would stretch from Blue Jays Way to John Street, so there’s a way for these two projects to coexist.
Considering the closer proximity, it would make sense that the Blue Jays would be tied in more closely to the Union Park project, but again, we’re just speculating.
As Shapiro says, there will be an announcement within the next few months, which should make the path to the next phase of the Skydome/Rogers Centre much clearer.
The fact that he indicated some of these changes will take into effect next season suggests these large-scale projects related to Union Park and the Rail Deck Park are further down the line, which sounds like these immediate improvements will be inside the stadium.