The Toronto Blue Jays’ fan experience is getting a big overhaul in 2023.
Rogers Centre, home of the Jays since 1989, has long been criticized for lacking the true feel of a major-league ballpark. The retractable stadium’s latest makeover aims to address that issue.
In July of 2022, the club announced a multi-year, $300 million, privately funded renovation that will reform Rogers Centre through several projects "focused on modernizing the fan experience and building world-class player facilities."
The renovations will take place over two stages and be completed before the start of the 2024 season. Here’s what the club has renovated in its ‘Stage 1’ process, with changes taking effect on Opening Day this year.
Raised bullpens, outfield walls
To improve the viewing experience, fans need to be closer to the action, and the raised bullpens in left and right field accomplish that goal.
The new setup brings fans astonishingly close to the warm-up mounds. There won’t be any seats lost on the 200 level, either. Instead, the bullpen will become two levels, with the top section for pitchers to warm up on and the bottom section for relievers and bullpen catchers to relax during the game.
These alterations are bound to have an impact on players, for better or for worse, as they warm up in the bullpens.
"It's going to create a unique opportunity for our fans to encourage our relievers and potentially discourage — the kindest way you can say it — opposing relief pitchers," Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said in July.
When divisional rivals like the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox come to town, fans will turn up the heat. Rogers Centre already had a league-wide reputation as one of the rowdiest buildings in baseball, and now that’ll be amplified (think of Jays fans heckling Gerrit Cole or Chris Sale as they warm up before a game).
With the bullpens now elevated, the outfield wall height has increased dramatically, and the fence’s dimensions have changed. The park will definitely play differently, as there are new juts and curves in the outfield, which will make caroms off the wall much more challenging. Toronto upgraded its outfield defence this offseason by adding Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho, who will navigate the new dimensions.
The Blue Jays did not disclose precise details of the new outfield dimensions. Those measurements will be released at a later date.
New seats and slightly reduced capacity
The seats themselves will change, too. The older, light blue outfield seats have been ripped out and replaced by wider, dark blue seats. Additionally, a chunk of seats near the visitor’s bullpen (right field) have been converted into bleacher-style benches.
The stadium’s overall capacity has been reduced due to the renovations, with 3,000 seats — mostly from the 200 and 500 levels — being removed to accommodate the new social spaces. The new Rogers Centre capacity is expected to be around 42,000. That number will decrease further during the next wave of renovations ahead of the 2024 season.
Social spaces and new food options
The food and beverage options at Rogers Centre, two areas that sorely need enhancement, will be considerably improved by the first phase of renovations.
By Opening Day, there will be four distinct "outfield neighbourhoods." These social spaces, each with a Toronto-based theme, offer fans a new way to experience the game. There will be viewing perches and bars on the 100-level corners in left field and right field.
The renovations are more expansive in the 500 level, where the left field section features the Jays’ "Park Social" area, an open-air space with artificial turf, video games and other entertainment options for younger fans. If grabbing a drink and hanging out is more your style, the right field ‘Corona Rooftop Patio’ features live music and a lounge-style restaurant.
All social spaces will be non-ticketed, meaning fans from all sections can come visit. There will also be a gaggle of new food options on the menu, including Jamaican beef patties, banh mi sandwiches, and food-truck-style eats like bacon-pepper grill cheese.
Also of note, the batter’s eye, previously an empty section of seats with a black sheet over top, will be changed. The physical batter’s-eye seats in centre field are now gone, and the 100-level concourse in that area will be extended towards the infield. Fans won’t be able to see the field from this area, but there will be lights, televisions, and graphics to make up for it.
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