Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Rogers Centre 1 Blue Jays Way Toronto, ON M5V 1J3 Canada
Year Opened: 1989 Capacity: 41,500
Rogers Redo … In Progress
In July of 2022, renderings for a massive rethinking of the Rogers Centre were revealed. The announcements of the renovation put 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, Rogers Centre has also been massively influential on future stadiums. With the 2023 season, the renovations at the Rogers Centre are partially complete. With the focus on the upper deck, the fan experience has changed and the benefits are clear with the new areas being well-populated. During the 2023 off-season, the focus will be on rebuilding the entire lower bowl.
The Toronto Blue Jays joined MLB as an expansion team in 1977. Currently owned by Rogers Communications, which 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 several 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 some Apple Brisket or Jerk Chicken Nachos, would be the way to go. The Cubano Panini at the TD Park Social is also a good choice.
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 even more massive than before the video board, 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 includes Halladay and Gillick, joined by Tom Cheek, Carlos Delgado, Joe Carter, George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb, Paul Beeston, Cito Gaston and as of the 2023 season, Jose Bautista. After an 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 renovations for the 2023 season have mostly taken place in the 500 level. All of the seats have been removed and replaced with larger, more modern, plastic blue seats. The right field and left field sides of the Jumbotron each have new social areas. The right field area is where fans will find the Corona Rooftop Patio, a bar area that often features live pre-game music. The left field side is where fans will find the TD Park Social area, which features Muskoka chairs, cornhole, and a huge chalkboard.
Each side, although similar, has a different vibe and both have been extremely popular in the 2023 season. The bullpens have been raised and each is well within shouting distance of fans. The symmetrical outfield fence design has been jettisoned for some differing heights and distances, making it a little more unique than previous. The visitors bullpen in right field is also near a new area, the Schneider’s Porch, which is on the 100 level and popular as well.
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 song and the eerily catchy “Okay Blue Jays” is belted out to the delight of the crowd.
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 from 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 in 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. For the 2023 season, the Jays are averaging over 37,600 per game. This is good for 7th in MLB and an improvement over the 2022 season. 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. With the increased attendance due to a more consistent team on the field and the new ballpark features, driving away from Rogers Centre has become increasingly frustrating and time-consuming.
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 a major presence in Union Station. Along Spadina, you will find the TTC street car. Any public transit info can be found on 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 has 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. The renovations have been a positive experience in Toronto, but with that, the headaches of getting away from the park have increased. Once everything is finished, it will be interesting to see where prices settle and whether or not the Jays remain a good return for the sporting dollar.
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 video board, upgraded luxury boxes, retractable roof, and 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.” It remains debatable if the renovations to Rogers Centre will give fans the ballpark experience Shapiro is shooting for, however, it is undeniable that thus far, the renovations have been a success. With the next wave coming in time for the 2024 season, a clearer picture will be on the horizon for the Jays.