By Cole Parkinson
Over the next few offseasons, plenty of changes are coming to the Rogers Centre — or Skydome if you prefer.
The concrete jungle is about to get some new life injected into it and it’s much needed. Whether you watch the games on TV or you’re in the Dome in person, there’s no denying it’s missing what a lot of the best ballparks have. Sure, it doesn’t have grass, but that’s more an issue for players than for fans. What’s missing is that ballpark feel and it feels like it’s still trapped in the 80s. It may have been a revelation for its time, but upgrades are needed.
When you walk into Rogers Centre, it feels like tons of concrete with no life. And on TV it doesn’t look like anything special — and that’s because it really isn’t much in comparison to parks like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Oracle Park in San Francisco, or Petco Park in San Diego. It’s never going to feel like a classic stadium like Fenway or Wrigley, but a modernization could help it reach a higher potential and feel more akin to some of the newer parks.
While a brand new park may have been a dream a few years ago, it certainly seems like those talks have died down, so these new upgrades are as good as it’s going to get. The original estimate sees $300 million being pumped into the renovations which include a pretty significant change to the outfield walls. While no dimensions have been released as of yet, it certainly looks like the new wall will not be uniform like it once was. Looking at the designs that were released last week, the outfield will look quite a bit different and the walls will be brought closer to home. It may offer a bit more challenge for outfielders as it appears there are a few more nooks compared to how things are right now.
The bullpens will be raised and fans will be able to view directly into them quite easier. While seats are only available above and behind the bullpens at the moment, the renovations will see each bullpen raised with seating on both sides and behind. That is definitely a cooler way to approach bullpens in the outfield, and this follows suit with plenty of other ballparks. Having fans closer to the action in the bullpen is cool and upgrading on that huge separation that’s there right now is a great idea. No major gap between the outfield wall and fans is overdue. Bringing the fans closer to action is something that should have happened a long time ago, so it’s nice to see that rectified.
Another great new addition coming is improvements to the 500 level. While it’s pretty traditional seating right now, the update will see the 500 level become a patio-type area and tickets will not be assigned. And on top of that, there are going to be plenty of new open areas with drink rails, bars, and viewing platforms spread out across the 100 and 200 levels as well. This will certainly make it a different atmosphere at Rogers Centre and differentiate it from what it was in the past, as well as separate it from what other ballparks do. The more options for fans — whether they want a traditional seat, standing in the 500s, or roaming around the ballpark to get different views at different standing areas — the better.
There are also plenty of additions being made for players. There looks to be an actual batter’s eye in centrefield instead of just tarped-up seats. They will also see a new 5,000-square-foot weight room added this offseason and much of the clubhouse level will be updated.
The Rogers Centre is in an amazing location, so if a new stadium isn’t in the cards in the immediate future, this is a great start to freshen things up. Overall, this looks to be a step in the right direction in updating the Rogers Centre, and with the team looking to compete for a World Series in the next several seasons, the team and updates should give people plenty of reason to head to downtown Toronto.