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A new home on the horizon for the Blue Jays?

Christmas has come early for Toronto Blue Jays fans.

Most awoke this morning to the startling news of Andrew Willis of The Globe and Mail reporting the Blue Jays are planning to scrap the Rogers Centre and build a brand new ballpark for the team.

This is something many, many people have dreamed about for years, but considering the ideal location of the current stadium and the hundreds of million of dollars sunk into the Rogers Centre already, starting from scratch didn’t seem feasible.

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Now it is, apparently! If this plan does in fact come to fruition, there are tonnes of working parts to figure out, but in the short term, this is incredibly promising for the Blue Jays. Many have been pining for a new ballpark for a long time, and now their prayers have been answered.

Keep in mind that Rogers Centre is the seventh-oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball and one of the last stadiums built in the multi-use era. During its unveiling in 1989, the SkyDome aimed to be everything to everyone; from baseball fans, to football fans, to concerts and yes, even Star Trek screenings.

Now that the Argos have moved out and the Blue Jays are the only tenant remaining (unless you include the attached Marriott), the ballpark has rapidly shown its age. The Blue Jays tried to update the stadium as much as possible, but you can only put so much lipstick on a pig before you need a new hog altogether.

It will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays, Rogers and Brookfield Asset Management Inc (who would be involved in the real estate component here) bring this new stadium to fruition. Will it be on the same land zoned for stadium use where the Rogers Centre resides, or will they move somewhere entirely new?

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As far as location goes, you can’t get much better than where the ballpark already is at 1 Blue Jays Way. It’s central to everything, close to the water, and would be a prime location if anyone was looking to build a ballpark at the heart of Toronto.

In the Globe article, it sounds like the Jays want to move the stadium closer to the south end of the property (closer to Lakeshore, and likely taking out Bremner in the process), and leaving the north end of the property for real estate development, like condos.

This makes all the financial sense in the world, especially given the current climate where the Blue Jays made exactly zero dollars on gate revenue this year. With this new plan in place, at least there would be some real estate income from condos on the north end of the property.

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So, if this project reportedly takes place over “five to eight years”, where would the Blue Jays play in the meantime? Considering how well they fared at Sahlen Field this past summer, Buffalo might be an option, but doesn’t seem liable for over half a decade.

As Shi Davidi suggests below, the Blue Jays could pull off a scenario where they play at “old” Rogers Centre while concurrently constructing the second ballpark in the nearby vicinity. They seemed to pull this off successfully in St. Louis with Busch Stadium, which would create minimal disruption.

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Even if this plan doesn’t come to fruition soon, something drastic needs to take place to bring the Blue Jays’ ballpark up to today’s standards. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to retrofit the Rogers Centre seems like it’s too much of a headache. It’s going to cost billions of dollars, but it seems easier to build a new park from the ground up.

Rather than be beholden to the bones of the old ballpark, the Blue Jays could start fresh and include things like a real grass field, cup holders on the back of every seat (not just the premium rows), seats that face home plate, craft beer, and how nice would this be; an open concourse with a view of the water, a la PNC Park in Pittsburgh or Oracle Park in San Francisco?

At some point, the Blue Jays have to quit trying to drag an old ballpark into the modern era and build a park on the cutting edge from the get-go. There aren’t often opportunities like this to start fresh, but the team should scrap the old dome and make a new park for a new era of Blue Jays baseball.