DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Toronto Blue Jays will begin a significant renovation of Rogers Center next off-season, overhauling the 32-year-old stadium’s lower bowl and concourses in a project that’s expected to be completed in time for the beginning of the 2024 MLB season.
The biggest priorities of the renovation will be modernizing Blue Jays player facilities, re-creating a similar environment to the one athletes enjoy at the club’s new player development complex in Dunedin, Fla., and improving the fan experience around the stadium.
“Create neighborhoods, create a diversity of fan experience for different groups of our fan base and create some premium (seating) — because we have the third-least premium in all of Major League Baseball, especially in the lower bowl,” Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro said of the club’s plans. “The majority of the impact’s going to be felt in the lower bowl and concourses. But we will touch every part of the interior of the stadium.”
The final cost of the privately funded project is not yet known, as planning, design and budgeting processes are ongoing. But the club anticipates revealing more fulsome plans for the renovation in May.
The club envisions completing around 30 per cent of the work next off-season and the final 70 per cent in the winter of 2023-24. The club isn’t planning to change the dimensions or situation of Rogers Centre’s playing surface, with the renovation’s largest and most noticeable impact coming to the stadium’s lower bowl, which will be completely replaced. Rogers Centre’s exterior will remain mostly untouched.
The project is intended to buy the Blue Jays 10-15 years with which to envision a longer-term solution for the aging, archaic building. Ultimately, the club will have to build a new ballpark — either on Rogers Centre’s current site or elsewhere in Toronto. And while the option of rebuilding within Rogers Centre’s footprint was considered in this round of planning, that idea quickly grew to a scale that proved unfeasible in the short-term future.
“What we learned is the magnitude of effort that it would take, in people and time and expertise and dollars, to plan the next-generation stadium, we didn’t have in place,” Shapiro said. “That is going to take a lot of time and a lot of energy, and it’s not going to be able to be a part time job for three people in the organization. We’re going to need to build a group to work on that effort and deal with it. So, that has not been done yet. The point is, let’s get this renovation done and then start working.
“We’ll still have a stadium issue. (The renovation) just gives us a good runway to deal with a very complex issue on a stadium. What does that look like if we stay where we are? What does that look like if we consider moving? That is extremely challenging. And this gives us 15 years without compromising fan experience and without compromising supporting our team, both with the right facilities and the right level of resources.”