The Blue Jays are reportedly getting a new home.
Rogers Communications, the company that owns the team and the building where the Jays have played since 1989, plans to demolish the retractable-roof stadium and construct a new park on the site as part of a larger development plan in downtown Toronto, according to media reports Friday.
The new stadium would be primarily used for baseball and feature natural grass, sources told the Globe and Mail (subscription required). Rogers Centre is one of the few remaining MLB stadiums to use artificial turf. The others are Tropicana Field, home of the Rays, Chase Field, home of the Diamondbacks, Marlins Park in Miami, and Globe Life Field, the new home of the Rangers. Interestingly, the Blue Jays have never had a natural-grass stadium. The team’s previous home, Exhibition Stadium, where it played from its inception in 1977 until June 1989, also had artificial turf.
Initial reports said that the plans would be made public in the new year, though later Friday the company told a Toronto radio station that it owns that the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily halted the development plan.
“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 employees safe, so there is no update on the Rogers Centre to share at this time,” the company told 680News.
Rogers Centre opened in 1989 as SkyDome, and was the first MLB stadium to feature a retractable roof. It was also unique in that it featured a hotel in the upper section of the outfield that allowed fans to watch a game from their room. The building became known as Rogers Centre in 2005 after Rogers bought it.
The Blue Jays haven’t played an official game at Rogers Centre since 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to government regulations in Canada that prevented the team from playing the 2020 season in its usual home. It instead played its 2020 home schedule in Buffalo, N.Y. Still, the Jays enjoyed a successful year, going 32-28 in the abbreviated 60-game MLB season and making the playoffs as a wild card.
It’s unclear where the Blue Jays would play in the interim should the plan for a new stadium progress.