- Dave Cottenie
Rogers Centre - Toronto Blue Jays
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Rogers Centre 1 Blue Jays Way Toronto, ON M5V 1J3 Canada
Year Opened: 1989 Capacity: 49,282
Just Before the Rogers Redo
In July of 2022 renderings for a massive rethinking of the Rogers Centre were revealed. The announcements of the renovation puts to rest, temporarily at least, the talk of replacing the SkyDome, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, with a new stadium. The venerable and iconic domed stadium took the world by storm in 1989 providing numerous state of the art innovations. The stadium landscape in Major League Baseball changed once again with the introduction of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992, which became the go to blueprint for most new stadiums. However, it goes without saying that Rogers Centre has also been massively influential on future stadiums.
The Toronto Blue Jays joined MLB as an expansion team in 1977. Currently owned by Rogers Communications, who also owns Rogers Centre, the Jays have carved themselves a rather large niche as “Canada’s” baseball team. The height of their popularity culminated in the 1992 and 1993 World Series Championships. With playoff aspirations in the air, the popularity of the Blue Jays is steadily increasing and optimism has Toronto once again singing “OK Blue Jays.”
Food & Beverage 4
Rogers Centre provides a solid culinary experience for patrons. Hot dogs, burgers, nachos and popcorn are all readily available. There are a number of different hot dog and burger options. Pizza is provided by Pizza Nova and soft drinks are provided by the Coca-Cola family of beverages. The alcoholic beverage and specifically beer options are massive. Fans could head to the WestJet Flight Deck on the second level past centrefield for possibly the best beer selection in the building. For fans who are looking for something a little more unique, grabbing a chicken sandwich at Mary Brown’s, a Canadian chain originating from Newfoundland or an ice cream creation from Jane Dough’s, would be the way to go.
Being built in 1989, Rogers Centre remains a product of its time. The exterior of the building, although iconic and easily recognizable, is marred by far too much exposed concrete. There is a lack of a grand entrance that is found throughout Major League Baseball. The northeast and northwest corners of the building feature the bronze statues entrenched into the building, “The Crowd” and “The Fans.” The south side of Rogers Centre has a bronze statue of Rogers Communications founder, the late Ted Rogers. The north side of the building also has the famous Toronto Marriott City Centre hotel which has rooms that face inside the stadium.
The inside of the Rogers Centre can be dark. The 100 level is generally the spot to be before the game. The best concessions can be found here and past left field, the pre and post game show with Jamie Campbell of Rogers Sportsnet can be found. The 100 level concourses are fairly open, considering the age of the building. New for 2022 is an even more massive than before videoboard, which has engulfed an entire level and taken over where Sightlines restaurant used to be. Above the videoboard are the championship banners of the 1985, 1989, 1991, and 2015 American League East banners along with the 2016 and 2020 Wild Card banners. Nestled neatly in there are the 1992 and 1993 World Series banners. Hall of Fame banners for Pat Gillick and Roy Halladay also hang proudly with the championships. The Jays nod to history continues with the level of excellence, located on the facia of the fourth level and include Halladay and Gillick, joined by Tom Cheek, Carlos Delgado, Joe Carter, George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, Paul Beeston and Cito Gaston. After a MLB investigation into alleged sexual misconduct and his placement on the ineligible list, Baseball Hall of Fame member Roberto Alomar has been removed from the Level of Excellence and his Hall of Fame banner removed.
The game day production at Rogers Centre is okay. At one time, the Blue Jays went overboard with sound effects between pitches. That has been toned down a bit. The Jays promotion team does their thing throughout the stands and the Jays mascot, Ace, interacts with fans. Typical baseball promotions and the like are peppered throughout the game, but the highlight of the Jays experience is the Seventh Inning Stretch. Before the seemingly mandated “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” the Jays play their own song and the eerily catchy “Okay Blue Jays” is belted out to the delight of the crowd.
The Blue Jays have shown some improvement in the 2021 and 2022 seasons with some of their employees. In the past, Jays employees have been somewhere between ambivalent and rude, and not providing the overly welcoming atmosphere that is found in many other, more traditional baseball markets. This is partially because Rogers Centre is often populated with students in areas where other ballparks will have retired people. Although there are plenty of students working concessions, it seems that the average age of ushers at the Rogers Centre has increased significantly and offers a bit of a more welcoming atmosphere. While still not up to par with employees found at many other American baseball stadiums, it is a noticeable step in the right direction.
As some fans and media clamor for a new baseball stadium, the fact remains that Rogers Centre is not going anywhere. The reason is simple. There is not a better location in the city for the Blue Jays to be. Downtown Toronto is a fantastic spot to make an afternoon, a weekend or an entire vacation. There are a huge number of locations where one can eat before or after the game. However, as with many spots, the pandemic has changed the face of the city’s culinary industry. Fans looking for a true culinary experience, may want to ascend to the top of the CN Tower to the 360 Restaurant. For fans looking for a more traditional pre-game experience then The Loose Moose, The Pint Public House, or Steam Whistle Brewery are good options. Front Street and Bremner Blvd have a plethora of dining options. New to the area is the Sportsnet Grill, which is located inside the Toronto Marriott and offers views of the field where fans can eat and drink and watch the game.
An entire vacation can be had in downtown Toronto. The CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada are right there by the Rogers Centre. The Rogers Centre does offer tours, however they are not nearly as good as they should be. The Theatre District may be second only to Broadway in New York City as far as stage entertainment is concerned. The Eaton Centre is a fantastic place to shop. Right across the road from the Rogers Centre is Toronto Railway Museum. Fans may also want to take the Steam Whistle Brewery Tour, which is also across the road. However, no trip to Toronto is complete without a trip to see the Hockey Hall of Fame. For fans looking for other sports, Toronto FC, Toronto Argonauts, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Marlies and Toronto Maple Leafs all play within minutes of the Rogers Centre. The University of Toronto is just north of the Rogers Centre and the Varsity Blues field football, basketball and hockey teams among others. A truly unique experience may be to check out Toronto Metropolitan University Bold hockey or basketball at the former Maple Leaf Gardens.
Of course there are a ton of places that you could stay in downtown Toronto. A unique experience would be to stay right in the stadium at the Toronto Marriott City Centre. Another unique experience would be to stay at one of the most significant historical hotels in all of Canada, the Royal York. A little more affordable would be the Delta and Strathcona, however you are going to pay to stay downtown no matter what you choose.
With increased checks in the win column in 2022, there have been plenty more fans going through the turnstiles at Rogers Centre. With the first full season post pandemic, the Jays are averaging over 32,000 fans per game. This is good for 11th in MLB. Generally speaking, Jays fans are relatively quiet, as are most southern Ontario fans, but they can definitely get loud when the time is right. With the colder months requiring the roof closed, the noise can get off the charts with the noise staying in the building.
The Rogers Centre can be challenging to get to as downtown Toronto traffic can be difficult. Rogers Centre is located right by the Lakeshore in downtown Toronto. Driving to the stadium will be difficult as motorists must take either the Gardiner Expressway or Lakeshore Blvd. Hitting the road earlier as opposed to later is always the best idea.
The bad traffic downtown is mitigated by the fantastic public transit options. Rogers Centre is just a couple of blocks from Union Station. The TTC subway, GO Transit and Via Rail are all major presence in Union Station. Along Spadina you will find the TTC street car. Any public transit info can be found at the TTC and GO Transit websites.
Decent parking can be found downtown, however depending on the day it can greatly fluctuate. Most days you can find parking within walking distance of the Rogers Centre for around $15. On one of those special days, the same parking space can go for $40. The face of downtown Toronto is constantly changing and the parking situation becomes more perilous with the increase in condominium construction. ParkWhiz and SpotHero options are now more prevalent downtown and should be consulted.
The ticketing windows are outside Gate 9 along Bremner Blvd. There are a huge number of windows, but the sidewalks are not massive and can get crowded very quickly. Increased security combined with the significant increase in fan attendance have made entry a challenge at times.
The concourses in Rogers Centre are pretty wide and getting around is not too difficult. The stadium would have benefitted from escalators. The majority of fans will travel up and down with long trips around traditional stadium ramps. The washroom facilities are plentiful and on most days more than adequate.
Return on Investment 4
With the return of full capacity Blue Jay games at the Rogers Centre, the ability to get more economical tickets has returned. Tickets in the 500 level can be found for $21. The outfield and baselines in the outfield will go for under $70. However, tickets between the bases on the 100 level are quite pricey and will normally go for over $100. With renovations in full tilt next season and a roster that should still feature many young stars, it is fully expected that prices will get even higher. For now, the return on investment is a little better than during the covid shortened season of 2021, but renos will have to be pretty amazing for fans to keep this score where it is at.
An extra mark for the return of the ORIGINAL Okay Blue Jays. The early 2000s saw the Jays’ anthem “modernized” with a horrible backbeat. There is no doubt the original is better.
An extra mark for the innovation that the Rogers Centre brought to Major League Baseball. The huge videoboard, upgraded luxury boxes, retractable roof and in stadium restaurants were all pioneered in Toronto.
With the renovations long overdue coming to Rogers Centre, it will be interesting to see if, as Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro hopes, the former SkyDome becomes a “ballpark” and not a “stadium.” Playoff baseball could be on the horizon for 2022 and the Jays seem to be a team on the rise. What the future holds will be exciting, but for now, Rogers Centre remains one of the most influential stadiums in the league and one that needs the most TLC.
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.