For decades, the Rogers Center hasn’t been so affectionately known as Skydump, an unflattering game of the stadium’s original name.
But if plans for a sprawling new downtown stadium are realized, Toronto could have one of the most outstanding sports facilities in all of Major League Baseball.
According to a Globe and Mail report, Rogers Communications, which owns the stadium and its primary tenant, the Toronto Blue Jays, has made plans with Brookfield Asset Management to demolish the outdated dome and create a shiny new and sprawling facility in their building to erect place.
According to the announced plans, the new stadium would be built on the southern edge of the current property and be part of a major development that would change the face of this part of the city. The project would include residential buildings, an office complex, and retail and public spaces in the sky.
From a sporting point of view, the heart of the development would be a stadium with natural grass, which would make it more attractive for both Blue Jays fans and players.
The theme of a new home for the Jays is one that has come up regularly for the past decade and has been the focus of team president Mark Shapiro, who understandably paid attention to detail. There were calls to renovate the tired Rogers Center, which opened as a Skydome in 1989 and was known for its retractable roof.
#timelapse Rogers Center with a little movement // time lapse and movement sequence #BlueJays #mlb #OurMoment # ALDS2016 #gopro pic. Twitter. com / WuVQuT4SiQ
Over the years, however, the stadium was showing its age, and many who had to do with the Jays quietly hoped that demolition would be the answer, rather than costly and logistically challenging renovations.
According to the Globe report, the new stadium would be part of a billion-dollar project to be built with private funding from the two developers. Obviously, development would require the approval and cooperation of all three levels of government.
The country itself is one of the required clearances. Although Rogers owns the physical structure, the land on which it was built is leased from Canada Lands Company, a Federal Crown Corporation.
“Rogers in a statement Friday.
While there are still hurdles to negotiate and any project would take years, the fact that the plans have progressed to this point is a potentially massive change for Canada’s only MLB team.
The Rogers Center wasn’t exactly a draw for free agent players as it’s one of only two establishments in MLB that still have outdated artificial turf, a playing surface despised by the majority of players.
Team President Shapiro has been asked repeatedly about plans for the renovation of the stadium over the past two years and has cleverly rejected such discussions. Although some cosmetic improvements have been made in recent years, no significant structural improvements have been made. What has long been suspected is not clear: the priority was to avoid spending good money after bad and to focus on a new structure.
While the Rogers owned Jays would be the prime tenant for a new town, many others would likely be vying to use it. While the schedules are still unclear at this point, Canada is expected to host a few matches of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
There are of course many obvious questions before the project begins. Will the stadium have a retractable roof, an attraction for all the miserable home dates in April and May? Where would the team play in the two seasons (or more) that the project would complete? And perhaps most importantly, how will the pandemic economy affect the feasibility of both construction and financial profitability?
Presumably, the new stadium would offer many of the amenities found in some of the MLB facilities in cities like San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and San Diego.
Having the mammoth company advanced this far is a massive and overdue development for the city, the Jays, and their parent company.
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