There once was a time when the Rogers Centre – formerly the Skydome – was a modern marvel of architecture. It had a retractable roof, the largest scoreboard in the entire word and was once the envy of every professional sports team.
A lot has changed since then. In the 28 years since, the Rogers Centre has remained relatively unchanged. The Skydome was the last of the “monolith” ballparks, where the vision was to build multi-sport stadiums that could pack as many people in as possible.
This year, Mark Shapiro and the Toronto Blue Jays are working behind the scenes to overhaul the 28-year-old stadium. Reports have the Blue Jays spending somewhere in the neighbourhood of $200 million to overhaul the Rogers Centre.
Some of the improvements are major pieces of infrastructure: recently-completed renovations to the retractable roof and new seating. But how else could the Blue Jays use $200 million to transform the Rogers Centre from a stadium into a ballpark?
Several weeks ago, I was contacted by some students at the Ivy School of Business asking for some assistance with their pitch for Deliotte’s Annual Innovation Forum.
Deloitte enlisted HBA students to submit their ideas to improve the overall fan experience at the Rogers Centre. Naturally, I was interested in the ideas they had for the Blue Jays’ brass.
Anyway, below is a concept video which this group put together. In essence, the thing that intrigued me was their idea of something called “The Nest” – a glass overhang above the field (inspired by the Flight Deck), similar to the see-through floor at the top of the CN Tower.
Another interesting concept was something for the top-level concourse of the Rogers Centre. In essence, it’s a glass donut, where fans could view the stadium from the 500 Level inside a glass-walled enclosure.
The group was looking at multiple ways to redefine the fan experience. Initially, what I suggested was a glass platform above the baseball diamond. Personally, I would come to the Rogers Centre if I could watch the game from a bird’s eye view.
That’s when we realized having the glass enclosure around the stadium would offer an element that another stadium typically couldn’t. There would be this glass donut going around the upper level, and within it would be a Hall of Fame. The glass would just be on the portion looking toward the field.
These students hit on a lot of points which most fans would agree with; there needs to be a much bigger emphasis on the history of the Blue Jays within the stadium. They’d solve this problem by having a Hall of Fame ring at the very top of the dome.
I don’t claim to know whether any of this is possible within the confines of the Rogers Centre without going way over budget, but it would definitely be something new and unique to the ballpark.
Not all of these ideas are totally feasible, but then again, feasibility isn’t a priority at the concept level. The idea is to bring new, innovative ideas to the table, and let the engineers figure out whether it’s possible. The HBA students also had some other ideas:
One of the other groups suggested cutting around 1,500 seats in the corners of the stadium which were typically uninhabited. They would remove those sections and have themed areas and alternative seating.
They also suggested having an arcade, where someone could play baseball or learn to play baseball. We had a similar idea as a group, at multiple points within the stadium to put on a VR headset and try to hit a pitch, something fun and interactive.
You could see the play from the batter’s viewpoint and see what they saw, simulating and trying to hit a pitch.
If the Blue Jays are going to sink all this money into the Rogers Centre, they may as well move forward with ideas similar to these; ones that not only bring the Rogers Centre up to today’s standards of a MLB ballpark, but also exceed it.
The VR headset station idea is something that’s not only feasible, but it seems like it’s something which seems like it would be relatively simple to set up. The question then becomes, how many stations throughout the stadium?
Questions like these, and many others, are ones which will be answered in the coming months by the Blue Jays. There is serious work to be done at the Rogers Centre over the next few years.
It’s difficult to say which direction the Blue Jays are planning on going with the stadium overhaul, but if it’s anywhere in the general vicinity these students envisioned it could be, the future looks exciting for renovations at 1 Blue Jays Way.