Blue Jays seek to reimagine Rogers Centre as baseball-focused venue

MLB franchise the Toronto Blue Jays has unveiled the first plans for a privately funded C$300m (£192.4m/€229.2m/$233.9m) revamp of Rogers Centre, which aims to transform the stadium into a baseball-focused venue.

The Blue Jays have once again teamed up with Populous for the project, after the architectural design firm worked to deliver the team’s Player Development Complex in Dunedin, Florida which opened last year.

The 49,000-seat Rogers Centre has been the home of the Blue Jays since opening in 1989 and is also used to host music concerts and other events. It previously served as the home of Canadian Football League team the Toronto Argonauts and also hosted the NBA’s Toronto Raptors in the 1990s while the team’s new arena was being built.

The new project envisions a series of projects focused on modernising the fan experience and building world-class player facilities. Rogers Centre was conceptualised as a multi-purpose stadium when it opened and has not undergone a large-scale renovation in its 33-year history.

The scope of the project will address the most important challenges with the current stadium, while not rushing the necessary long-term work needed to maintain the ballpark for future generations of fans.

In April, Anthony James Partners (AJP), a subsidiary of ASM Global, announced the completion of major technology upgrades at Rogers Centre. The upgrades were rolled out for the new MLB season and were designed to enhance the overall game experience for fans, players and employees.

After a successful partnership on the Player Development Complex, the club is once again working with Populous on architectural design. A series of projects are to be phased over the coming two to three MLB offseasons, focused on the interior of the building, including the 100L and 200L outfield, 500L, 100L infield, and field level.

The exterior of the building, a potential switch to a natural grass playing surface, and roof are not in the current scope. Projects will be completed during the offseason as to not impact baseball activity in-season. The current timeline for the venture is as follows:

2022-23 offseason projects, completed for Opening Day 2023

100 level and 200 level outfield

  • Creation of multiple new social spaces with patios, drink rails, bars, and viewing platforms
  • Raised bullpens surrounded by traditional and new bleacher seats, as well as social viewing areas that look into the bullpens to increase fan and player interaction
  • 100L seats brought forward to the new outfield walls to brings fans closer to the game

500 level

  • Two new social decks in right and left field
  • Replacing every 500L seat from the originals when the building opened

Field level ­

  • Players’ family room
  • 5,000 sq. ft. weight room
  • Staff locker rooms

2023-2024 offseason projects

  • 100 level infield
  • Field level premium clubs and social spaces
  • Clubhouses and player facilities

Commenting on the venture, Mark Shapiro, president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays, said: “We are committed to building a sustainable championship organisation for years to come, and this renovation to Rogers Centre will give new and lifelong Blue Jays fans a ballpark where they can proudly cheer on their team.

“This project would not be possible without the support of Edward Rogers, Tony Staffieri, and our Rogers ownership group, who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the Blue Jays, both in fielding the best team to win championships, as well as in the infrastructure needed to create a modern ballpark for our fans and players.”

Pat Tangen, principal and senior architect at Populous, added: “This innovative transformation of Rogers Centre reimagines a modern, baseball-centric fan experience.

“A smart, efficient, and meaningful upgrade that will honour the venue, these renovations will introduce a wide variety of interactive viewing opportunities that draw fans into the action no matter their location in the ballpark.”

Yesterday’s (Thursday’s) announcement came after the Blue Jays in March received approval to carry out renovation work at Rogers Centre amid ongoing talk over a potential new stadium for the team.

At the time, Shapiro said the work would provide the team with more time to assess a potential new stadium. In November 2020, it was reported that Rogers Communications, which owns the team, had put plans to redevelop the ballpark temporarily on hold amid reports that the franchise was considering building a new stadium on the site of its current home.

Speaking yesterday, Shapiro maintained that the Rogers Centre revamp doesn’t change the organisation’s long-term plan to either seek out a new ballpark at another Toronto location, or engage in larger renovations for its current home.

He told reporters: “This is a medium-term solution. What does that mean? I’m not sure I can put an exact year on that, but 10-12 years, something in that time frame. We will still need, at some point, to undertake what a new ballpark or a massive renovation of this existing stadium means.”

Images: Populous/Toronto Blue Jays