Blue Jays: The big question surrounding potential Rogers Centre demolition

Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

The potential demolition of the Rogers Centre left Trevor Popoff with one burning question that has yet to be answered: Why now for the Toronto Blue Jays?

It looks like the Rogers Centre’s days as an indelible mark on Toronto’s skyline and home of the Toronto Blue Jays could be numbered.

According to a recent Globe and Mail report, there had been talks about the multi-use stadium being replaced and additional development in the area being considered.

Or at least they were.

CBC later reported that Rogers Communications had discussed plans to tear down the home of the Blue Jays and build a new stadium, but these talks were put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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Plans or no plans, a massive question is still floating around, like those pigeons that sometimes find their way into the 31-year-old stadium’s rafters. Why now? Or, why anytime soon? 

There’s an obvious answer to these questions. Its exterior is spartan, its sight-lines are impacted by its status as a dual-use venue and its playing surface is far from optimal. The roof, once an engineering marvel, is also showing its age. Falling ice tore a hole in it that forced the postponement of a game against the Kansas City Royals in 2018.

So, there’s no debate that Rogers Centre is one of the sore spots in a league filled with jewel box gems. It would certainly be nice to have a new stadium. But I’m asking ‘why now?’ for two different reasons; one related to sports, one related to flat-out human decency.

First off, the sports reason. The Blue Jays are about to enter their most competitive window in franchise history since their consecutive trips to the ALCS in 2015 and 2016. This is not the time to displace the team and potentially impact fans being able to see their team play in person.

I know we’re in a pandemic and in-person sports viewing seems lightyears away, but according to The Globe, the estimate on construction time is five to eight years. If the plan is to build a stadium in the footprint of the Rogers Centre, where are the Blue Jays going to play while the teardown and subsequent building of the new stadium is taking place?

The last two stadiums added to MLB’s collection showed how timing matters. The Atlanta Braves were terrible in their final season at Turner Field, but, by hook or by crook, timed their move into SunTrust Park (now Truist Park) for when the team was competitive again. Conversely, the Texas Rangers waited until their competitive window closed to christen the new Globe Life Field.

Also, if you’ve lived in this city long enough, you know to err on the longer side of construction projects. You can’t just throw a few sticks of dynamite at the Rogers Centre and plug your ears. Due to its hyper-urban location, it will need to be slowly disassembled, creating noise, traffic, and one giant eyesore in the middle of the downtown core.

Another reason I am posing the question ‘why now?’ is the current state of Toronto as a city. We are in a housing crisis. Recently, the city threatened to remove tiny homes built by a local carpenter for violating a municipal bylaw. Even if the new stadium is entirely privately funded (and that’s a big ‘if’), what would it say to our city’s most vulnerable that we’re building an opulent, frivolous new baseball stadium whilst they go cold and exposed on the streets. Steps away from Rogers Centre, the city cleared out tents from underneath the Gardiner Expressway.

It is worth noting that the city offered accommodation to all occupants before dismantling, but many choose to live outside due to fears of contracting COVID-19 in a shelter. What message are we sending to the vulnerable if we prioritize a luxury, a baseball stadium, over-investment in solving our innate problem with affordable housing?

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Does the Rogers Centre need upgrades? Yes, certainly. Can Rogers Communications do whatever they want with their money? Yes, certainly. Do you want to potentially be watching our team exclusively on TV while its owners direct millions of dollars towards a new stadium while more and more Torontonians go homeless and hungry? Well, that’s for you to decide.