Toronto Rogers Center is the world’s first stadium with a patent for its design and a fully retractable roof. Though owned by Rogers Communications, the owner of MLB franchise the Toronto Blue Jays, the sports arena exemplifies multi-purpose stadiums. It owes its origin to public demand to watch games uninterrupted by rain and the efforts to salvage the pride of Toronto following the 1976 Olympics bid setback. The stadium continues to be the only stadium to host both football and baseball major leagues.
Located in Downtown Toronto, Rogers Centre was once known as SkyDome for its massive retractable motorized roof. It has hosted five of six major professional sports leagues except for the National Hockey League and is the most preferred venue for concerts, trade fairs, public meetings, carnival, conventions, and auto shows.
The demand for a new stadium emerged in 1968 after Toronto lost to Montreal in its bid to host the 1976 Olympics. This led to proposals to replace Maple Leaf Stadium with a bigger, modern sports complex. In 1976, the Toronto Blue Jays MLB franchise came into existence and this pushed for a new stadium. However, this made no progress until November 1982 when Toronto Argonauts played their first Grey Cup in a decade. The rain-drenched match and flooded stands and washrooms led the people of Toronto to hold a huge rally the next day seeking chanting for a stadium with a dome.
A committee formed in 1983 scouted for designs and places for Rogers Center. Two years later, it selected Railway Lands at the base of the CN Tower to construct a new stadium. Experts opted for the design of Architect Rod Robbie and engineer Michael Allen for offering the best possible roof opening. It was a public-private partnership with federal, provincial, and city governments funding a part. The rest was financed by a consortium of corporations, including the Toronto Blue Jays, three main breweries, and 26 big business entities.
Despite challenges posed by unstable soil, technology challenges, and uproar over the financing model, constriction began in October 1986 and went on till May 1989. It was initially called the “Toronto Domed” stadium. But an open contest with over 150,000 entries led to it officially called SkyDome in 1987.
Rogers Center, then SkyDome, was opened to the public on June 3, 1989, with a grand celebration amid more than 50,000 spectators. However, unable to service the huge debt, the Ontario administration sold the stadium to a consortium led by Blue Jays’ owner Labatt for $151 million. Within four years, Labatt turned bankrupt and Sportsco International LP acquired SkyDome in 1999.
Rogers Communications took over the stadium except for the hotel part in 2004 and renamed it Rogers Centre on February 2, 2005.
Features & Renovation
The fully retractable roof makes Rogers Centre a unique sports arena. Divided into three sliding panels and one fixed panel, it is 31-story high and spreads across 345,000 square feet. It takes about 20 minutes to open or close the dome completely using electrical-powered ‘train’ engines. A 500-meter walkway connects the stadium to the Union Station.
Rogers Centre has artificial turf, a feature you may see at only four other MLB venues. These are the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field, the Miami Marlins’ LoanDepot Park, the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field, and Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field arenas.
The stadium has 5,700 club seats and 161 luxury suites. The 348-room Toronto Marriott City Centre occupies a part of the venue and its 70 rooms offer an exclusive view of the games played.
In 1989, Rogers Center was decorated with artwork that then cost $5 million. These include gold paintings, fans-in-celebration sculptures, players, signatures of construction workers, and fountains.
Following its takeover by Rogers, the stadium underwent extensive renovation in 2005. It added a Daktronics video display, indoor and outdoor monitors, the 100 Level concourse, more luxury boxes, and a new AstroTurf Gameday Grass. In 2006, Rogers Center became a no-smoke zone. A Jays retail store was opened in 2007. The year 2017 saw more technology upgrades worth $10 million.
Purely Baseball Things To Know
- Rogers Center hosted World Series games in 1992 and 1993.
- The Blue Jays played their first home game on June 5, 1989, losing to Milwaukee Brewers. Two days later, they got their first win against the same team.
- The Blue Jays won both 1992 and 1993 World Series, 1992 and 1993 AL Pennants, and East Division titles in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 2015.
- It was the venue of the 1991 MLB All-Star Game and 52,383 spectators were present.
- The 1991 American League Championship was the first MLB event to be played indoors at Rogers Center and Minneapolis Metrodome.
- When the 2009 World Baseball Classic began, Rogers Center hosted the first round.
- Auckland Athletics hitter and 1988 MVP Jose Canseco hit a 480-foot shot that landed on the fifth deck of Rogers Center. He played for the Blue Jays during the 1998 season.
- The 1990 season saw a record 58 sellouts at Rogers Center.
- The Blue Jays wing their first doubleheader in 1989, second in 2001, and third in 2018 at this very venue.
- It boasts the farthest western side for batters among all MLB venues.
- The Blue Jays moved to Buffalo’s Sahlen Field for the 2020 season following the COVID-19. This brings MLB to Buffalo 105 years after International Fair Association Grounds/ Federal Park was closed.
Pan American Games
The 2015 Toronto Pan American Games had its inaugural and closing ceremonies at Rogers Center.
Rogers Center was home to NBA franchise Toronto Raptors from 1995 to 1999. Their match with Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls invited 36,000 attendees.
Until 2015, the sports arena regularly hosted Canadian football. This included the Grey Cup, the Interuniversity Vanier Cup, and the 2007 International Bowl between the Michigan Broncos and the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Toronto Argonauts made it their home ground until 2016. The NFL’s Buffalo Bills played several home games in 2008 at Rogers Center.
Since 2004, Rogers Center has been hosting international soccer friendlies involving national teams and major European clubs. Manchester United, Liverpool, Juventus, and Brazil’s national team had played here.
Rogers Center regularly hosts many racing events, including the Toronto Supercross, the FIM World Supercross GP series, the USAC National Midget Car Grand Prix, NASCAR night race, and the Monster Jam truck tour.
Rogers Center was the venue for the 1993 IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships. It also hosts major high school and collegiate events, WWE wrestling, and concerts. U2 performed twice in 2009 and 2011 while Bon Jovi had his concert in 2010. The Rolling Stones and Madonna also held concerts at the arena.
In 2011, it hosted the International Indian Film Academy Awards. Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama graced public occasions at the stadium.