Still called the SkyDome by many Blue Jay fans, the Rogers Centre is home of Canada’s only professional baseball franchise. An architectural marvel at the time of its opening, it was the first retractable roof stadium, allowing events to be held year-around in Toronto, regardless of the weather. Toronto was awarded an expansion franchise in 1976 after relocation attempts by several other baseball teams failed, including the San Francisco Giants. The city did not have a baseball only facility for the team and had to retrofit the football only stadium, Exhibition Stadium. In 1977 the Blue Jays made their debut in Toronto, playing at Exhibition Stadium for 12 seasons.
In the late 1970s city officials began working on plans to build a new stadium in Toronto. A site west of the CN Tower in downtown Toronto was selected with groundbreaking ceremonies occurring on October 3, 1986. The new stadium was not just for the Blue Jays, but a multipurpose venue that could host any event. It would also feature a retractable roof allowing events to occur throughout the year regardless of the season. Stadium officials allowed the public to participate in part of the stadium process by providing suggestions for a name. Over 12,879 fans submitted a large variety of suggestions to name the stadium including Alfresco Stadium, Railway Place and the Zipper Dome. The name chosen for the stadium was announced on May 11, 1987, SkyDome. For more than 15 years the stadium was known as SkyDome before being renamed. In February 2005, Rogers Communications bought the stadium for $25 million and renamed SkyDome, the Rogers Centre.
AT THE ROGERS CENTRE
A grand opening ceremony at the SkyDome occurred on June 3, 1989. Over 60,000 people watched the dome open for the first time. Two days later the Blue Jays made their debut on June 5, 1989 when 51,000 fans filled the stadium. The retractable roof consists of four independent panels. When the roof opens three of the four panels, two barrel shaped and one quarter dome, maneuver where they stack over the fourth panel at the north end of the stadium. Weighing over 21 million pounds, it takes 20 minutes for the roof to open or close. The Rogers Centre has five levels of seats that extend from right centerfield to homeplate and to left centerfield. All the lower-level seats were once moveable and could form a football gridiron, as the Jays once shared the stadium with the Toronto Argonauts (CFL). The pitchers mound was raised and lowered hydraulically when the field was not in the baseball mode. Originally the stadium had an Astroturf field but it was replaced with Fieldturf before the 2005 season.
The Rogers Centre has many other unique features other than its retractable roof. The Rogers Centre Renaissance Hotel is part of the stadium beyond the outfield. It has 350 rooms, 70 that overlook the playing field. In centerfield is the massive videoboard, most recently upgraded prior to the 2022 season. It measures 110-feet wide by 44-feet high. Following the 2022 season the Blue Jays embarked on a multi-phased renovation project to modernize and enhance the fan experience at the Rogers Centre. To be completed during the offseason over two years, the $300 million project enhances the entire stadium. The first phase of the project was completed prior to the 2023 season and focused on the outfield area. The lower level seating was brought forward to the new outfield walls brining fans closer to the action. New raised bullpens were installed and now include bleachers surrounding them. Four new social spaces with bars and patios were added on lower and upper levels in the outfield. Additionally all seats in the upper deck were replaced with new wider and darker blue seats. This combined with the renovations behind the outfield, lowered the seating capacity of the Rogers Centre to 41,500. After the 2023 season, the Blue Jays will renovate the lower level surrounding the field and construct new premium clubs and social spaces. The entire project will be completed by the 2024 season.
The Blue Jays have had success at the Rogers Centre, winning the 1992 and 1993 World Series. They also attracted four million fans a season during this time. With its roof open on a sunny afternoon and its location in downtown Toronto alongside the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre is a great place to spend an afternoon watching baseball.
Rogers Centre Pictures