Toronto Blue Jays: 4 ways to improve the fan experience at Rogers Centre

A general view of the Rogers Centre during the Toronto Blue Jays MLB game against the New York Yankees on Opening Day. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
A general view of the Rogers Centre during the Toronto Blue Jays MLB game against the New York Yankees on Opening Day. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

With competitive baseball on the horizon in Toronto, how can the Toronto Blue Jays improve the fan experience at the Rogers Centre?

Over the years, one thing has remained consistent with the Toronto Blue Jays and that’s the reputation of the Rogers Centre with baseball fans and the number back it up.

These are the different rankings the ballpark in downtown Toronto has found itself around the league;19, 28, 24, 28, 22,28. These rankings have been done by reputable MLB ballpark too (Popular Mechanics, NBC Sports Washington, Yardbarker, Ballpark Digest, Forbes and The Sportster respectively).

With the Blue Jays’ window of contention just beginning to peek open, does the last cookie-cutter ballpark in operation need an upgrade? Here are four fixes, ranging from relatively easy to ambitious, that could help the Rogers Centre with its image problem.

1. Improve the ramps to the 500 level

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If you’re like me, you’d rather go to five Blue Jays games a year and sit in the 500 level every time than pay exorbitant rates to sit in the 100 or 200 levels once or twice a year.

Since I subscribe to the 500 level philosophy, I have spent a lot of time trudging up the dimly lit ramps that take you up to the top deck of the Rogers Centre, so I speak from experience when I say that they’re literally the worst. Not only do they go on forever, but they are completely featureless; just four walls of concrete and a garbage can.

The Blue Jays recently ran a promotion for their upcoming “Zombie Night” promotion. Can you guess where they filmed it? That’s right, the 500 level ramps, where no special effects were needed to create the atmosphere of a graveyard full of the undead.

The odd window looking out onto the lake and the fact that these ramps ensure that the ballpark is accessible save me from roasting them even harder, but still, something needs to be done. Even if it’s just a coat of paint, please, just show the ramps some love.

2. Replace the turf field with real grass

The Blue Jays took a big step in 2016 when they removed the astroturf baselines and installed a full dirt infield. Now, it’s time to complete the job. Only two artificial surfaces remain in MLB today, with the Tampa Bay Rays employing the other.

Turf fields have been subject to complaints by players and fans alike, with concerns for career longevity being at the forefront. While there are barriers, both physical and scientific, to a real grass field at Rogers Centre, a move to an authentic surface would make the experience at Rogers Centre better for both players and fans alike.

3. Embrace team history

Throughout the Rogers Centre, there is a lot of concrete. Throughout the city, there is also a lot of concrete.

The City of Toronto has used this extra surface area to allow local artists to create murals that brighten the days of passers-by and add liveliness to what were once just bland, grey expanses. The Blue Jays have improved the concourse with murals of players and logos, but much more could be done to celebrate the very interesting and unique history of the Toronto Blue Jays.

On a recent visit to Comerica Park in Detroit, I noticed that the Tigers have erected information boards, for each decade of Tigers baseball, around the lower concourse. Adding information boards like this is a win-win for both management and fans, as the boards would give fans a more informed view of the team and make them spend more time on the concourse, leading to more opportunities for advertisers and food vendors.

4. Interactive games inside the stadium

The argument against interactive games in stadiums is that they detract from how many people actually make it to their seats to watch the game. While interactive activities and unique amenities can make a sellout look like a blackout, they add so much value to the average ticket that they’re worth it.

We’ve all heard the story of the fan who hit 96 m.p.h. on the interactive pitching machine at a Rockies game, which earned him a minor league contract with the Oakland Athletics. How cool would it be to have a story like that come out of Toronto?

I can’t speak to how the process works in Colorado, but in Detroit, they have both an interactive batting and pitching activity that truly brings fans of all ages and skill levels together. For a couple bucks, you get a ticket that you can use at either activity.

With a boisterous crowd waiting in anticipation, I chucked three pitches, each one exactly 55 m.p.h.. While not a high score by any stretch, it created a positive memory that I’ll always have with me.

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By implementing some (or all if you’re feeling ambitious) of these ideas, the Rogers Centre could create more positive experiences for its patrons and perhaps move up in the league-wide rankings.