By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction Report staff writer
Phase one of a renovation project at Toronto’s Rogers Centre is designed to get fans closer to the action.
Significant changes have been made to the 500 level and the lower outfield decks and construction during the next off-season will move behind-the-scenes into players-only areas.
All 500 level seats have been torn out, with the installation of replacements now underway. The lower outfield decks have been removed, with new ones being built lower to the field and the home and away bullpens being raised.
“As much as we loved our old building, there really was a blue sea of blue seats,” Marnie Starkman, executive vice-president of baseball operations, told reporters at a recent news conference.
“Our team did the best job they could but really, this outfield district is going to provide fans with such a better opportunity to travel around the ballpark and experience a different experience.”
Four new outfield seating areas have been created and labeled “neighbourhoods.”
Also, a bar area is being added to the 100 level and another in right field, above the visitor’s bullpen – putting an emphasis on socializing and classic cocktails with trendy food options like Montreal smoked meat, Cuban sandwiches, and brioche pretzel bites
The 500 level will house the Corona Rooftop Patio – a stand-up area with a view of the city and over left field Park Social will be built – a family-oriented two-tier area.
“We’re trying to get fans that don’t normally want to come watch nine innings of baseball to the ballpark,” Starkman said. “You can have a great time if you’re not a crazy, Blue Jays fan and we hope that they’ll be converted to a Blue Jays fan.”
The Blue Jays said that the field’s new dimensions will be released during spring training in March. By closing the gap between the bullpen and stands, however, the outfield walls appear to be significantly higher.