COVID throw a wrench in Rogers Centre plans



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Canada Toronto Blue Jays new stadium Image: ballparksofbaseball.com

Rogers Communications Inc., has said in a statement that it was examining the future of its Toronto facility – Rogers Centre – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the deadly virus has forced it to put back those plans.

Rogers Communications Inc., is a Canadian communications and media company. It operates primarily in the fields of wireless communications, cable television, telephony and Internet connectivity, with significant additional telecommunications and mass media assets. Rogers has its headquarters in Toronto, Ontario.

Rogers Centre (originally SkyDome) is a multipurpose stadium in Downtown Toronto, Canada, situated just southwest of the CN Tower near the northern shore of Lake Ontario. Opened in 1989 on the former Railway Lands, it is home to the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball (MLB).

The Toronto Blue Jays are a Canadian professional baseball team based in Toronto, Ontario. The Blue Jays compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League East division.

Blue Jays ownership is planning to knock down Rogers Centre and put up a new multibillion-dollar facility in its place.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were exploring options for the stadium but through this year our primary focus has been keeping our customers connected and keeping our employees safe, so there is no update on the Rogers Centre to share at this time,” said the telecommunications company’s spokesperson Andrew Garas in a statement sent out recently.

Media reports stated that Rogers and Brookfield Asset Management Inc., were looking to demolish the stadium as part of a larger development project.

The two companies would build a new stadium half the size on the southern part of the present site and employ the remaining land for residential towers, office buildings, stores and public space, media reports stated.

Brookfield declined to comment on the matter.

Media reports further stated that Rogers and Brookfield were weighing the options of building a stadium along the waterfront if the development plan falls through on a slice of land called Quayside, where Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs once hoped to build up a tech-savvy neighborhood.

“The news is the first Waterfront Toronto has heard of the Quayside site as a potential new home for the Blue Jays,” said Andrew Tumilty, a spokesperson for Waterfront Toronto, the agency overseeing the development of the City’s lakefront.

“Extensive scrutiny” would be needed for such a plan and the organization will also have to consider existing, approved precinct plans, as well as the size and shape of the site, Tumilty said in an email.

Quayside is a waterfront district slated for redevelopment in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
 

Roadblocks

In the event of the Rogers Centre getting pulled down, there are potential roadblocks in the way. For one, Rogers Communications Inc. – which owns the Blue Jays – does not own the land on which the ballpark sits. The land belongs to Canada Lands Company.

Secondly, the Blue Jays would require the Canadian Federal Government to sign off in order to move forward with this project, which could take five to eight years to complete if given the thumbs-up. Jays ownership, Government officials and the real estate arm of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. had earlier planned to go public with the project in 2021. Rogers Centre was largely built on taxpayers’ money.

If a replacement stadium for the Blue Jays comes up, it would occupy some of the same land as the Rogers Centre. The rest would be devoted to “residential towers, office buildings, stores and public space” as part of a redevelopment plan for Toronto. If that plan collapses, though, the Blue Jays could seek a new lakefront stadium instead. Any new facility would feature natural grass, not the artificial turf the Blue Jays play on right now, though a clear picture has not emerged whether it would include a retractable roof – the most recognizable aspect of Rogers Centre.

If the proposal to build a new stadium on the Rogers Centre site succeeds, it’s unclear where the Blue Jays would play their home games in the interregnum period. Nearby Buffalo (in New York, US) hosted the Blue Jays in 2020 due to travel restrictions necessitated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is no word on whether that will continue if the club has to wait for a new ballpark.

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