Logging into Twitter in 2020 is like crossing the street when you’re a little kid. Be sure to look both ways, and have an adult hold your hand, because you never know what’s coming around the corner.
Last Friday morning, I went on Twitter and was immediately met with the jarring words, “Rogers Centre Demolition”.
Rogers Centre – formerly known as SkyDome – has been the home of the Toronto Blue Jays since June 5, 1989. It was an architectural masterpiece at the time. The first-ever multi-purpose dome stadium. It had an enormous jumbotron, a retractable roof, and McDonald’s, for crying out loud!
Unfortunately, it seems like they built it for 1989, rather than the future.
If you would like to cringe for two hours, I highly suggest you watch the 1989 Opening Ceremony of SkyDome on YouTube.
Not even five years later, it felt outdated thanks to Camden Yards. The stadium was being lapped by others in North America. Everyone had a jumbotron. City backdrops behind the outfield wall made SkyDome feel like a bomb shelter, when the roof was closed.
The artificial turf – green concrete – became the root of complaints from baseball players around the league.
The whole, “This big name free agent won’t play for us because they don’t want to play on turf” storyline felt like a bi-annual occurrence.
So, when I saw the report that Rogers wanted to demolish the Rogers Centre and build a new (smaller) baseball-first stadium on the same footprint as the current one, or on a 12-acre Quayside site in the Toronto Port Lands (Portlands), where Google was (key word) going to build a “smart city”, I was excited.
New stadiums are exciting.
I even said to a friend earlier in the year that the team should take the opportunity of the pandemic to tear down the stadium and build a new one. Yes, I know it’ll take years, but why not start when the building isn’t occupied?
However, for as excited as I was by the possibility of a new stadium, I was also a bit sad.
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this out loud since I’m in the minority, but I actually really like the Rogers Centre, which I prefer to call SkyDome.
Ask just about anyone in Toronto and they’ll tell you about how bad the stadium is and that it’s in desperate need of upgrades.
Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but I never came to the same negative conclusions on my own. Sure, I knew the turf wasn’t ideal for players, but I was unaware of how hated the stadium was until many years ago.
I think what happened is people started travelling to other stadiums and when they came back, they say what we had was lesser-than. That’s fine. I can understand that.
I played at many different baseball diamonds as a kid and, of course, there was a ranking in my head. I knew which ones were nicer, which ones had a bigger dugout, and which ones had a better surface.
But you take the mentality of, “this diamond isn’t as good, but it’s OUR diamond”. I think I’ve taken that same mindset with SkyDome.
It may be a bad stadium, but it’s OUR bad stadium. Ya know? Within that, there is a sense of pride.
The memories I have go back to my childhood, when my Dad and I would go to at least one game each year.
The first Blue Jays game I ever went to, I ate McDonald’s and fell asleep after the national anthem. Miraculously, I still have the view from our seats engraved in my memory. We were about 20-25 rows up from the Jays’ dugout.
Going to the Dome as a kid was always like, “Wow, this is the place I see on TV and now I’m here!” Even the walk from the Subway station felt special. The CN Tower acted as a compass in the sky.
I’d run around the bases after the game on Jr. Jays Saturdays and feel like the distance between first base and second base was SO far, that it was a miracle I got there without needing to ask for directions.
Is it a far walk up to the 500 level, with a steep set of stairs? Yes. I need to sit down by the time I get to my seat. That might be the point, though.
Personally, I’ve always liked the birds-eye view of the playing surface at a stadium, or arena. I like being able to see everything.
Maybe that goes back to my years as a kid, sitting behind tall people in the lower level, and not being able to fully appreciate being “close” to the field.
When the roof is closed, it feels like we’re in a snow globe that cancelled Christmas. Outside of the occasion where two birds were trapped inside and one of them “dropped a present” on people in the lower level, I don’t mind the roof being closed.
It made the two playoff games I went to – in 2015 and 2016 – that much more wild. The crowd noise had nowhere to go, so it only amplified. That was fun. That was memorable.
Sure, there’s concrete everywhere, and there are no views to the outside, and the symmetrical outfield adds no real drama when the ball is in play, but that never really bothered me.
Okay, the symmetrical outfield bothers me.
When the roof is open, it’s miraculous. The CN Tower is right there, as the perfect backdrop. Everyone has at least one picture of it from their seat.
It’s no Fenway Park, or any other fancy stadium that was recently built, but it’s SkyDome – our SkyDome…though I guess it’s their Rogers Centre now – and there are many elements of it that I’ll always cherish.
I’ll miss it when it goes, but the prospect of a new stadium is exciting because exciting things are exciting.
I read that a new stadium would take 5-8 years to build. If that’s the case, I don’t see how it can be built on the same footprint as the existing stadium. That’s a shame because it’s such a perfect location.
Look at any picture of the Toronto skyline and you’ll see the CN Tower and Rogers Centre as the focal point. Get rid of the Dome and you just have the CN Tower and a bunch of buildings that are standing on their tip toes.
Is there a way to do what the St. Louis Cardinals did with their stadium? Build half of it right next to the existing stadium, and then when the season ends, quickly tear it down and build the other half of the new one before the next season starts?
It truly amazes me how they were able to do that.
Can it be done in Toronto? Some say yes, others say definitely not. I think I fall in the “definitely not” category. I don’t think there isn’t enough space down there to do it, nor do I think there is enough time.
I have no expertise in the matter, but tearing down a stadium and building half of a new one, between the months of November – March, in Toronto, just seems impossible.
And do we really think the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, and other destinations – let alone all the businesses and apartment buildings – are going to like having even more construction around them, disrupting their days for 5-8 years?
I can hear The Rock yelling from afar, “It doesn’t matter what you people think!”
I haven’t even mentioned the railroad tracks right next to the stadium.
As much as I was picturing a wrecking ball going through the wall in centre field last Friday, it’s not that simple.
The demolition process will not be quick and easy.
Richard Peddie, who was the CEO of SkyDome from 1989 to 1994, said a few days ago that, “It will take nuclear weapons to take that thing down. It will be expensive and noise.”
Forget all of the heavy machinery for a second, what about the Toronto Blue Jays? Are we really going to send them off to play somewhere else for 5-8 years, while a new stadium is being built?
I don’t think so, especially when the team seems to be opening its window of contention with exciting young players. Could you imagine Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. playing the best years of their careers in a temporary home and away from Toronto and Canada?
That’s not going to happen.
The league couldn’t possibly want the team in another city for that long, nor could the owners. They want the Toronto market. If they wanted Buffalo, there would be a major league team in Buffalo already.
Sorry, the truth hurts.
Sending them to Montreal and a stadium that is arguably in worse condition than the Rogers Centre, doesn’t seem likely.
What seems most likely is a new stadium is built in the Toronto Port Lands, which will be closer to the water than they already are.
For some reason, my first thought was, “What about floods in the future?” Maybe I’m the only one concerned with national disasters.
I’m sure people far smarter than I will have gone through every logistical hurdle before putting a shovel in the ground, so I guess I shouldn’t worry.
They can take their time building the new stadium, while the team plays out its remaining days at Rogers Centre. It just seems like the only option.
What do I want in the new place? I’m not really high-maintenance. People want a grass field; I’m sure they’ll find a way to put grass in there.
All I know for sure is there will be a roof. I’ve seen some people suggesting they want a roof. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, except when their opinion is wrong. This is Toronto. We need a retractable roof. And being closer to the water only means it’s going to be colder.
I know they’re hell-bent on making it a baseball-first stadium, but without a roof, they close themselves off to any and all activities during non-baseball months. I’m not saying they’re going to fill up the place with concerts every weekend in the winter, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having that option.
It’s a revenue stream.
And don’t tell me the city wouldn’t mind hosting WrestleMania again. Whether you care for wrestling, or not, WrestleMania is notorious for generating over $150 million in economic impact for the host city. It’s the reason why cities are now submitting a bid for the event.
Hence, a roof would be nice.
There has been chatter for years that the Blue Jays need a new stadium, but never any legitimate reports, like the one on Friday. It was always just, “Oh, we’ll put money towards renovations on the current stadium” and that was it.
At some point, it doesn’t make sense to keep buying new parts for your old car. You just buy a new car.
I do wonder, though, why this news leaked now. Who benefits from having this out in the open?
Following Friday’s report, Rogers came out with this statement:
“Prior to the pandemic, we were exploring options for the stadium but through this year our primary focus has been keeping our customers connected and keeping our employees safe, so there is no update on the Rogers Centre to share at this time.”
Could it be that someone wants to get this stadium project moving, and leaking the information puts pressure on Rogers to do something? I have no clue, but stories this big don’t leak randomly, do they?
Regardless, we’re still years away from a new stadium and the world will be a different place by then.
Personally, it will be bittersweet to see SkyDome go, but I already know when I visit the new stadium for the first time and observe the outrageous prices, it will feel like home.
A new home, but OUR home.
What are your memories of Rogers Centre (SkyDome)? Has a new stadium/arena gone up in your city recently? What do you think of it?