Twenty-five years ago the stadium revolution, which led to the stadium arms race, began in Toronto, Ontario. Although many today would consider the Rogers Centre, formerly SkyDome, a cookie-cutter stadium. The truth is that the Rogers Centre is anything but a cookie-cutter. If your definition of cookie-cutter is solely based on the round shape of the stadium, then your definition is too shallow. Stadia that were considered cookie-cutters were nearly exact replicas of each other, whether Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia or St. Louis. SkyDome actually broke the mold in 1989.
The opening of SkyDome showed all of Major League Baseball what was possible in a stadium. What eventually became the Rogers Centre brought a whole new focus on the fan experience. Luxury boxes became a league-wide catch-phrase. Having a giant video board became a must after the original Jumbotron. In stadium restaurants became common. A retractable roof became a reality. All of these innovations seemed to be pioneered in Toronto.
The Blue Jays and Rogers Centre are owned by Canadian media giant Rogers Communications. After the 2013 blockbuster deal with the Miami Marlins, and subsequent return to the "blue" period in the Jays unis, expectations were high for the team, including some picking the Jays to win the 2013 World Series. After a colossal failure of a 2013 season, the Blue Jays are flying under the radar. A terrific start to the 2014 season has Jays fans hoping this is the breakout year. Attendance is up and hopes are high. There may be a Blue Horizon in Toronto in 2014.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The biggest concession change at Rogers Centre recently has been the changing of the pizza guard. Out is stalwart Pizza Pizza and in is newer player Pizza Nova.
As with most major league stadiums and arenas, the Rogers Centre features the best concessions on the main floor. You can find the best stands in the 100 level concourse. These would include the gourmet foot-long hot dog stand, the Shopsey's Deli stand, and Corkstown Fresh Burger. The best choices are Quaker Steak and Lube for some fantastic chicken wings and fries, and the Muddy York Market. The Muddy York offers a huge variety of beverages in a cafeteria style setting. You will also find a feature sandwich and nachos among other food choices. The jerk chicken nachos are fantastic.
All of the other concessions you would expect are available. Soda options are Coca-Cola products. Beer options include Budweiser, Bud Light, Corona and Alexander Keith's. What is sad is that 37 years ago, the Blue Jays franchise was proudly founded by Labatt's Brewery. Currently, you are unable to find any Labatt products at the Rogers Centre.
Prices for concessions at the Rogers Centre are not awful, but are pretty much what you would expect for Major League Baseball. (Pizza $6.50; Popcorn $6.75; Hot Dog $5.75; Soda $5.25; Beer $8).
Recently, the Rogers Centre has taken a bit of a media beating for its age. There are currently only six stadiums in MLB that are older than the Rogers Centre. The Rogers Centre falls into that muddy area of not being old enough to be classic like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, and being too old to be in the next wave of stadiums that followed. Still, Rogers Centre is plugging along, weathering the storm. It remains a revolutionary stadium in MLB, and there have been numerous upgrades over the years.
Rogers Centre does take a hit for its exterior. Too much exposed concrete and no specific main entrance make the Rogers Centre more of an eye-sore than tourist attraction. The Renaissance Hotel takes up what would be considered a good spot for an entrance, but the hotel does bring some charm and there are a few infamous stories that go along with it. A number of the rooms have windows that look right out on to the field.
An area that the Rogers Centre is in grave need outside of the stadium is the state of the fountains. There are a few different fountains that are to add a decorative touch outside the Rogers Centre. These have been dry for a few years and definitely require attention. If the fountains running again is not in the cards, then Rogers should be coming up with an alternative plan.
Inside the Rogers Centre has changed pretty significantly over the years. The experience can compete with most other stadiums as well. The 100 level concourse is now a 360 degree experience, with most of the obstructions to the field having been removed. Home games also feature the broadcast crew of Jamie Campbell and Gregg Zaun hosting their "studio show" Blue Jays Central. Their set is in the concourse just above the left field corner. They are fun to watch and are quickly becoming the baseball equivalent of Ron MacLean and Don Cherry.
The videoboard in centre field is huge, and although it is not the original technology, the concept of the giant videoboard in centre field was definitely pioneered in Toronto. Beneath the board there are two special dining options. Sightlines is an open-air restaurant that offers a great view of the field and a dinner buffet. Below Sightlines is a stand-up bar that is open to any ticket holder. This is a newer feature and it replaced what was formerly Windows restaurant. For a more upscale experience, the TD Comfort Clubhouse is available on the second level, behind home plate.
The Blue Jays are doing a decent job in displaying their history throughout the Rogers Centre. Above the Jumbotron in centrefield are the banners commemorating the Division Championships of 1985, 1989, 1991 as well as the famous 1992 and 1993 World Series titles. On either side of the championship banners there are banners for Blue Jay Hall of Famers Pat Gillick, who was the GM through the glory years, and Roberto Alomar, who is the only Blue Jay to have his number retired.
Around the facade of the upper deck is the Blue Jays Level of Excellence, which honours great Jays over time. Tony Fernandez, George Bell, Carlos Delgado, Joe Carter, Dave Stieb, and Roberto Alomar are the players represented. Broadcaster and Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Cheek is also present with his 4,306 straight Blue Jay broadcasts honoured. President Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick represent Blue Jay builders and manager Cito Gaston also has a place.
It is just a matter of time until recently retired pitcher Roy Halladay has his place on the Level of Excellence. What would really help the Jays experience, is allowing the common fan to see some more Jays artifacts. The Jays are pushing 40 years and have a ton that should be on display. At the front of this line are the two World Series trophies that the Jays won.
The sightlines at Rogers Centre are pretty good, with some small pockets providing a less than spectacular view. The plastic seats in the Rogers Centre for the most part lack cup holders and seem smaller than other parks. The in game experience for the Jays is about what you would expect. Possibly the biggest Rogers Centre complaint over time has been the Astroturf/Fieldturf that has been employed. The Jays and Rogers have a long range plan to put natural grass in the Rogers Centre and make it a "baseball mainly" facility. The 2018 season should see grass at the Rogers Centre which will bring the end to a very costly and complicated process, and gives us a pretty good indication that the Rogers Centre will be around for a long time.
I'm not sure there is a better baseball location in all of Major League Baseball. There are a ton of things to do in downtown Toronto. The CN Tower is adjacent to the Rogers Centre. It offers a fantastic view of the city as well as dining options and the EdgeWalk for those who are REALLY brave. New to the city is the Ripley's Aquarium at the base of the tower. Within walking distance is also the Steamwhistle Brewery, Air Canada Centre, CBC and the Hockey Hall of Fame. You will reach Harbourfront just a few blocks south.
All of these attractions in such a small vicinity means that there is a massive selection of dining options. Front Street is filled with them. Two options that are a little more unique to Toronto and definitely worth your time are the Loose Moose on Front and Wayne Gretzky's on Blue Jays Way (#99 Blue Jays Way of course).
Any way you slice it, your Blue Jays experience can only be amplified by the neighbourhood. If you are from out of town, your best bet is not to book a night, but to book a solid weekend or even better, a week.
Long gone are the days of 50,000 strong in attendance, but the 2014 season has brought hope for the Jays. Opening Day is always sold out, but what has changed in 2014 is that the promotional dates have also been sell-outs. The Jays are hoping for some strong numbers throughout July and August. Blue Jay fans are intelligent and tend to come to the Rogers Centre from all across the nation. If you are looking for a loud, boisterous experience, you will not find it at the Rogers Centre. Ontario fans are generally polite and quiet, not making much noise until there is really something to make noise for. The Blue Jays consistently have one of the worst capacity percentages in all of baseball. That is a function of the Rogers Centre capacity being just too big, and the trendy nature of the city of Toronto. A deep run into September and maybe even October would bring the fans out for sure, but until they can offer some more consistent numbers, the fan score remains mediocre.
Getting to the Rogers Centre can be a bit tricky, especially on those sell-out days. The Rogers Centre is right downtown Toronto, a few blocks from Harbourfront. Close proximity to the Gardiner Expressway makes it seem easily accessible. However the Gardiner backs up quickly from the west and the better option is often Lakeshore Blvd. There is plenty of parking around the Rogers Centre at palatable pricing. However, many will choose the public transportation route. Union Station is connected to the Rogers Centre by the SkyWalk. The TTC subway and Go Train end up at Union Station. This may be a better option.
Inside the Rogers Centre, concourses are pretty spacious but the washrooms, although numerous, can get into line up mode quickly.
Tickets for the Blue Jays offer a wide range of pricing options. Upper deck seats begin at $15. Lower bowl seats begin at $30 for the outfield and go all the way up to over $200. You should be able to find your price point for tickets for the Jays. There can also be decent deals found on the secondary market if you search. Concessions prices are pretty average for the league, and depending on your transportation choice, you can make an economical trip to the Rogers Centre. If you are from out of town, by no means should the Jays be the entirety of your trip. Make sure that you have some plans to experience the city of Toronto. It will be well worth your trouble.
An extra mark for the scrolling season ticket list on the 100 level. A nice touch for those supporters that are true blue.
An extra mark for a little celebrity love. On many nights right behind home plate you will find Geddy Lee, the lead singer of Rush.
Two extra marks for the originality of the Blue Jays 7th inning stretch. You will get to hear "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" which I believe is mandated by MLB, but even better you will hear "OK Blue Jays" a staple in Toronto for 37 years.
An extra mark for the importance of the Rogers Centre in the stadium arms race which MLB experienced in the '90s and '00s.
With new hope on the Blue Horizon, the Toronto Blue Jays are hoping to play longer and in front of even bigger crowds in 2014. No matter how the Blue Jays are doing, a trip to the Rogers Centre should be part of your trip to Toronto. In 2014, you may even have the opportunity to plan a trip in October.
In 1989, Toronto opened the SkyDome. It was state of the art in every sense of the word and was casually referred to as the next wonder of the world (right after Andre the Giant). It helped put Toronto in the centre of the sporting universe and made the Blue Jays the envy of the league. The SkyDome put the Jays at the top of the attendance heap in Major League Baseball and gave the team the needed revenue to help them build World Series Championship teams in 1992 and 1993. SkyDome has also hosted some significant events, including major concerts, two WrestleManias, Grey Cups, NCAA Bowl Games and public showings of the final episodes of Cheers and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and recently the biggest UFC event in history.
The city of Toronto eventually sold the SkyDome to media giant Rogers Communications and it was immediately renamed. Rogers also purchased the Blue Jays, who had fallen on hard times. Original owner, Labatt's brewery had been purchased by Belgian beer conglomerate Interbrew and the exodus of key executives, including Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick, began. Interbrew was not interested in running a professional sports franchise, and began cutting costs.
Much has changed in the twenty plus year lifespan of what is now known as the Rogers Centre and there are rumblings from local fans that maybe it's time for something new. What remains certain is that this wonder is at the very least a revolutionary stadium that led to many of the amenities and features that are now commonplace among newer stadiums. There's a funny thing that's happening in the MLB. The quest to create new and original stadiums has left the league with numerous stadiums that are very similar. This has left the Rogers Centre as a rather unique alternative.
Back in 1989, the Rogers Centre (previously the Skydome) emerged as a modern marvel of architecture. Thanks to its retractable roof, after 20 years it still stands as one of the most unique ballparks in the majors.
I remember my first visit to Skydome back in 1990. My Tigers were in town, and the place was electric. The Jays were on their rise to prominence, and the dome was seeing the highest attendance is the Majors.
Flash forward to today, or my most recent trip which was two years ago, and it just doesn't have the same pizzaz. For one thing, I don't know that the upkeep has been appropriate. There is lettering along the facades that have fallen down, and the place in general feels older than its 20 years.
The lack of enthusiasm from the fans certainly contributes, as does the personality free turf. While I like Major League Baseball in Canada (and I love Toronto), I wonder sometimes if there is a city that would be more in love with baseball than folks in Toronto seem to be.
Losing builds that apathy. Maybe that's all the venue needs- a little attention and a little winning.
Such a great city to visit, but the Skydome just leave so much to be desired. That turf just looks awful.
Once a revolutionary development with the retractable roof, the Skydome has suffered over the years, falling behind other new stadiums much as the team has fallen behind their competitors. Prices are high, especially for food and drinks. Fans are too spread out and are obnoxious without being funny.
I'll always have a soft spot for the place where the Jays 93 team won the World Series, but think the team needs to be more creative to get fans into the stadium and into the game.
I took in a game on 9/13/12 vs. the Seattle Mariners. This was the first MLB game I've been to in at least 15 years (Baltimore Orioles). It was also only my second time to Canada (I came up from Buffalo just for the game).
Food & Beverage:
Selection seemed very good...and yes, there was poutine :). Just a tad expensive. The $8.50 Commemorative Coke Zero was still refreshing though.
Atmosphere/Fans: Awesome! The stadium is a marvel, although it took me a second to adjust to the look of AstroTurf. Watching the game was definitely the #1 priority of most people attending!
There was excitement in the air, despite what looked to be pretty poor attendance. To be fair, it was the last game in the series, it was a weeknight, and the Red Sox were rolling into town the next night. Canadians are wonderful, polite, and love their Blue Jays! Now I do too!
Neighborhood/Access: Rogers Centre is located in a pretty swanky downtown area. Parking was pretty expensive, but there were plenty of garages to accommodate.
If you're going to a 7pm game on a weeknight, I would recommend planning ahead, as you will most likely get stuck in some traffic. Another thing to note is that parking prices takes a dive in many garages at 6pm. If I had parked at 5:45, this particular garage would have cost me $21. Since I waited, it only cost me $9. I parked a ways away from the stadium though.
Return on Investment: I think the ticket prices for some of the 100 and 200 level seats are a little high based on the demand. It seemed like you could get a really good deal on anything in the 500 level. Why the 500 level patrons didn't all sneak down to better seats is beyond me... All that said, I would totally go again...but I would go much more frequently if the prices dropped a bit.
Extras: Caught a foul ball! Doesn't get any better than that! Ace (the mascot) came around a bunch and was happy to take photos. We were also treated to a rendition of both the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada!
Conclusion: Loved it. I would definitely go again. If you want to see some no-nonsense baseball, this is the place.
I've been to the Skydome for 3 games now and I really enjoy being there. It looks like a dank basement on TV but it's actually very open and clean in person. The area around is exactly what you'd expect from the downtown of a major North American city; fountains, lakeshore, skyscrapers. Toronto is like a clean Chicago. I've seen two games with the dome open and the CN Tower looming over the field adds to the scope of the Skydome as a multipurpose facility. The hotel in centerfield is also a classy touch. The street musicians playing bucket drums on the way in and out of the stadium was very fun. Overall, it was much better than I expected.
I really enjoyed the stadium. I imagined it to be bigger than it really is, but it's plenty spacious. The food selection on the first level was very nice, but its quite thin as you go up the levels. The fans arrived in force the day I was there in anticipation for the 2013 season. It was great to see a packed house, even in a loss. The seats were adequate up in the 500 level - what I expected from a 20+ year old stadium. The surrounding area is nice with a brewery, some good restaurants, and the CN Tower directly next door.
Rogers Centre has been called everything from "wonder of the world" to "concrete toilet bowl," not to mention SkyDome. Jays fans sometimes tend to complain about the sheer size and symmetrical blandness of the stadium but when the park opened in 1989 it was seen as one of the greatest venues in all of sport. Combined with back-to-back Blue Jays' World Series victories in 1992 and 1993, and a 1991 Argonauts Grey Cup win, the stadium was positively hopping.
Rogers Centre's history can be traced back to the 1982 CFL Grey Cup. Held outdoors at Exhibition Stadium, the game was marred by November's freezing rain and wind. The next day, people began calling for a domed stadium. In June of 1983 then-Ontario Premier Bill Davis announced that a domed stadium would be considered for Toronto.
Canadian 'starchitect' Rod Robbie drew up plans for the new stadium and won an international design competition. The site chosen was next to the CN Tower, and right in the heart of an upcoming neighbourhood built on a former rail yard. The stadium was to be the most expensive ever built in baseball and it would feature dozens of futuristic amenities including an enormous Jumbotron screen, a hotel towering over the outfield, and the 31-story retractable dome. Under the still-new CN Tower, the dome was to become the envy of the sporting world. Construction lasted three years and the opening of the stadium was met with great fanfare.
The lavish grand opening ceremony of Skydome began with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra playing an original composition, then an entrance ceremony for the construction crews reminiscent of the Olympic opening ceremonies. After this, a troupe from the popular musical Cats sang about the old Exhibition Stadium followed by big football players from the Argos who performed a lighthearted musical number of their own to the tune of 'Singing in the Rain.' Videos now on YouTube reveal that it wasn't half bad! Following this performance was the "We are Toronto' act, which showcased the city's multiculturalism. Finally, the climax was reached and the dome was ceremoniously opened for the first time. People applauded despite being exposed to a torrential downpour outside. Skydivers dropped in through the thick cloud and a final musical piece concluded the ceremonies.
The pomp and circumstance eventually wore off. In 2005, oft derided telecom giant Rogers angered fans when they purchased the SkyDome and renamed it to the corporate Rogers Centre. Many fans still purposely still refer to the stadium as SkyDome. The building also started to show its age. In an era of retro-inspired ballparks, the once futuristic Rogers Centre had become ironically outdated. The team did not play well on the field and fan apathy grew. Attendance fell and the future of the stadium looked quite bleak.
Then in late 2012, the Blue Jays made a series of trades and free agent signings that were punctuated by the Toronto Argonauts winning the 100th Grey Cup at home. Stadium owner Rogers announced a long-term plan to renovate the Rogers Centre and improve the fan experience. For the 2013 season, an open porch was added to center field, and more interesting food and drink options were added. Over the coming seasons, renovations will continue until a grass field is eventually installed. At the same time the Argonauts are expected to move into a new football-exclusive outdoor stadium elsewhere in the city.
The buzz surrounding the Jays has reached a fever pitch across Canada and the Rogers Centre, or SkyDome if you like, has become the place to be once again.
I recently had a weekend trip to Toronto with my wife and son, and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Rogers Centre, although I wish the fans around us would have drank less, and found more creative vocabulary than dropping the f-bomb every fifth word near my 5 year-old son. That said, Toronto is a wonderful (although expensive) city to visit.
The stadium food is good, and the hot dogs were above average in quality. Beer cost $11, which is outrageous. Overall, the quality is good, but the price is tough to swallow.
The neighborhood is in a great location, within an easy walk from public transportation. We stopped in to the Loose Moose, and I highly recommend eating there before or after the game, rather than shelling out at Rogers Centre. Stops at the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Royal Ontario Museum are both recommended as well. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on Lombard, near the famous St Lawrence Market, and the location was walkable to the stadium, at a reasonable price.
Overall, it's expensive, but Rogers Centre does have some new life, even if the team as not lived up to expectations in 2013.
I enjoyed visiting this ballpark with my family. Rogers Centre is located in the heart of Toronto with easy access to nearby attractions and restaurants.
Every year me and a few of my buddies purchase a 15 game flex pack to see the Blue Jays. Every time we go down to the Rogers Centre I feel like us Blue Jays fans have been cheated. The Rogers Centre has to be one of the worst baseball stadiums in the whole league. From the over priced, bland hot dogs (your best bet would to get one outside the gates) to the disgusting washrooms that lack hot water, Toronto baseball fans deserve better. With that being said when the Rogers Centre is rocking with a crowd of 45,000+ people it is simply awesome. The stadium is easy to access and it is right in the heart of downtown Toronto which can make for a cool day for a tourist. In conclusion the Rogers Centre may not be a world class facility in my mind but if you get the chance to catch a marquee game (Home Opener, Canada Day, Yankees games, etc.) it can make for an awesome experience.
255 Bremner Boulevard
Toronto, ON M5V 3M9
146 Front Street West
Toronto, ON M5J 1G2
310 Front Street W
Toronto, ON M5V 3B6
156 Front St W
Toronto, ON M5J 2L6
30 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5E 1X8
301 Front Street W
Toronto, ON M5V 2T6
One Blue Jays Way
Toronto, ON M5V 1J4
(416) 341 7100