Oh, SkyDome

The Rogers Centre turned 24 years old this week, having opened on June 3rd, 1989, and completely fittingly, apparently this is reason to both celebrate (somewhat) and malign the old girl.

At Grantland, Jonah Keri began ranking ballpark experiences from throughout the Majors, with our little concrete mausoleum coming in way down at number 21. That’s actually ahead of both of the new New York stadiums in his mind’s eye, but… that doesn’t mean the bottom-third ranking looks pretty.

Then again, he doesn’t entirely hate the building, noting that it’s “perfectly pleasant when the roof’s open, and isn’t far from the bars and restaurants lining vibrant King and Queen Streets in downtown Toronto. Still, neither[ it nor Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field is] a stadium around which you’d want to plan a big road trip.”

It’s really not such a bad review, actually. And not entirely off base, either, though I’d suggest that some mention of the atrociously ugly layer of thin felt on top of the leg-destroying concrete wouldn’t have been out of line.

Keri doesn’t just stop at current stadiums, either, sprinkling in a few former facilities, including one that makes you wonder how the hell baseball even took off in this damn town: the Ex, which he ranks dead last.

“The only time I ever left a game as early as the third inning without a rainout happened here,” he explains. “If you ever went to the Ex on a broiling summer day, you know why: The place was stuffed with metal benches that absorbed heat and cooked your entire body when you sat on them.”

So… I guess it could be worse?

Actually… yeah! It could totally be worse! Shit, it almost makes me want to Share the Dream and buy my very own piece of the material the roof is made of– nested in a mini-dome with fact-filled brochure and souvenir chocolate medallion!

Uh… not sure what the hell I’m talking about? It’s the atrocity in the clip below– a tiny square of metal being hawked for $9.95 a pop, “and certainly something that over two million visitors wouldn’t want to be without”– which comes by the way of the Atlantic Cities, who took some time this week to reflect on the early days of the world’s first retractable roof stadium, mostly in the form of absurd YouTube clips about the marvel of engineering, and the rather ludicrous, cheesy fanfare it was met with in the beginning.

Seriously. Watch:

Apologies if you have one of these things still floating around in a junk drawer or something, but… yikes. And the Alan Thicke-hosted musical celebration of the building’s opening– which I’m sure we’ve all seen, and is also included in the Atlantic Cities piece– just couldn’t possibly have aged worse if they fucking tried.

Almost like the building itself! Although, it’s not like being housed in such an uninspiring facility is what has been keeping the Jays’ attendance down for all these years. It’s entirely about the team and the expectations, as I believe we can see from a report on changes in attendance across MLB that came out this week from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

The Blue Jays, though not playing particularly well, rode the wave of expectations to pack a lot more bodies into their building through the first third of the 2013 stadium. Only the Orioles, Nationals and Dodgers saw bigger increases in attendance than the 3,886 person rise in average attendance the Jays have seen. And this happened while eighteen teams in the Majors have seen their attendance slip– some *COUGH* Miami Marlins *COUGH* by as many as 10,000 fans per game.

So… cheers, SkyDome, on your first twenty-four years! You’re… uh… not that big a detriment to the enjoyment of Major League Baseball in this city!

Comments (94)

  1. When do the jays get a new stadium: in fifteen or so years?

    • Doubt it.
      The Beest was quoted as saying that they planned to put a LOT of money (I can’t recall the #s) into the Dome over the next few years. I expect that’s what you’re going to see instead of any push for something brand new.

      To be fair, the Dome is really in the ideal location. It’s too bad it’s a giant concrete tomb, but maybe someone wiser than I can find some creative ways to turn it into something pretty great (or at least pretty not that bad)

      • There are some very, very simple techniques that can be used to modernize the current structure. Trust me, in 5 years we’ll all be proud of the ‘dome again.

    • LOL 15 years!!! Try 30.

      Rogers got that property for a song. They are going to milk that asset for all it is worth like any smart business would.

      The good news is that renovations will be rolled out over the next 5 to 10 years (including grass) and if the Windows refurbish is any indicator they’ll do a decent job.

      • True. The game I went to this year I spent about half the time on the centrefield patio. It’s a nice view. It’s packed all game too. The roof was open and it was sunny and I remember thinking if they had real grass in there, it would really have been cool.

    • not happening within that time frame (barring a natural disaster)… they set out a budget to be spread out over the next decade for upgrades, so they wouldn’t pimp it out and then leave in 5 years or so.

    • If there was a viable spot downtown then they just might have

    • How about we get a mayor and city council who will actually get more important shit done for this city, like building a legitimate transit system instead of fighting over it for nearly 40 years now. Let’s start with that stuff, and then think about building the Jays a real ballpark.

      Also the last stadium to be built in Toronto for a long time, outside of the Pan Am stadiums and a possible expansion of Varsity or the York stadium for the Argos, is BMO Field. Nothing else is coming.

    • why would you want a new stadium. Look what is happening with minnesota and all the rainouts. We are not a city that can live without a roof.

  2. Say what you want about the Dome but I’d take it over just about every other park (considering the budget set aside for upgrades over the next few years). I live right by Fenway park, and while on a 70 degree day with the sun out, it can’t be beat, I beg to be in the dome in just about every other weather condition. Not to mention the fact that you are guaranteed to see a game! I made a road trip to NYC this year, only to have the game pissed away by rain… Now with the game annoyingly rescheduled midweek, I’ve got to sell my tickets, and I’m out the money I spent driving down and getting a hotel.

  3. Calling the SkyDome old makes me feel even older.

  4. The retractable roof is sure a lot better than not having one.

    And the CF/Windows area looks a lot better now.

    And the food and beer choices on the 100 level are ok (if pricey).

    Just need real grass and I’m happy enough.

    A bigger screen and more replays (and less ads and BS games) would also go a long way, but not expecting that to ever happen.

    • You want a bigger screen? Seriously?

    • The food and especially the beer are not good, 100 level or otherwise.

      The food is overpriced and mediocre. The beer is severely overpriced and limited just to the usual macro crap. (Yeah Steamwhistle in cans in some obscure corner of Skydome. Meh. Do better!)

      • I’m just happy that I can now get a gluten-free beer at the game. Sure, I had to sell the farm to be able to afford a couple, but it’s better then the ball game sans beer.

      • They greatly improved the beer selection this year.

        You can now get cans or Boddington, Lowenbrau, Sapporo, etc.

        I wish the Carvery still served Hoegaaden but you can’t win em all.

  5. Skydome is, what the 7th oldest stadium in baseball? Fenway, Wrigley, Kaufmann, Dodger, wherever the Angels play…

    The more I travel and see other stadiums, the less I like about the Skydome. Particularly when I was in Seattle. That’s how you do a Dome – leave some open space even when it’s closed so that you don’t feel like you’ve been sealed inside, 18 craft beers on tap, a nice outdoors area…

    • yeah hopefully that is the direction they go with the budget set aside for renovations. Beer selection improved a huge amount this season, which is a good sign.

      • Re beer selection: Really? All that’s new that I see is Steampisstle, at one location for 11 bucks a pop. They’ve got miles to go before I would call it improved.

        • the stand where you get the steam whistle also has a couple other drinkable cans- shock top, something belgian that’s not stella, rolling rock. i know it’s not great but at least if we’re buying it, they might consider broadening their horizons beyond the usual crap.

        • In the last year they added Rolling Rock, Sapporo, Boddington, and Lowenbrau. Not all of the vendors have those, but most with the fridges do I’ve found, even in the 500′s and on the outfield porch. The carvery in the 100′s also carries a few more good ones, Beck’s.

          The days of Stella being the only decent beer in the Dome are over. It’s still expensive as all fuck for sure. But if I’m paying $11 a beer it may as well be something I’d buy and enjoy at the LC and now they have that.

    • Hard to imagine that anything other than whatever kind of renovations they can wangle will change as far as the old dome goes. It is well situated and for the weather, it does what it’s supposed to do. BUT … every time I see ball parks like we’ve been seeing of late – like in San Fran and San Diego not to mention others much closer geographically and meteorologically speaking – I wish-wish-wish we had a stadium that was as appealing as what a city like this really should have. What a difference it would make(!) … to so many.

    • @Steve
      That’s nice hindsight though – one had never been built before. All those other domes learned from this one, it was a pioneer. As cheesy as all that hype was at the time, it really was a huge deal – never been done in North America before. I think one or two in Europe but they were more giant cantilever tarps essentially. A moving concrete & steel roof.
      Even looking back though – still wouldn’t want the open air roof. Those early April games with free air still allowed in would be even MORE horrible.
      Covered but still a biting +5 wind cutting through the place? Even fewer people going to Game 2 & 3.
      No thanks.

      • Sure it’s all hindsight. Doesn’t mean that hindsight hasn’t shown the Skydome to be pretty outdated.

        I disagree on the open air though – having the Dome open always improves the experience, and not feeling like you’re inside would be a big help. I’m sure you could design it to minimize wind. I mean, those early April games you’re wearing a coat to get to the game anyways.

        • oh please. bring a hoodie and a blanket and you’re fine.
          if they can do it in detroit, new york, chicago, colorado, minnesota, etc… why not here??

    • Steve R – Nailed it!

      • Hold on a minnit…. If Steve R and other moaners are unhappy about the roof, reveal how many games you attend. Especially early on. If you average a shitty flex pac, then you’ve got no voice in discussing “free air” experiences.

        • Safeco has a roof. I’m not bemoaning the roof, I’m acknowledging that other stadiums have done it better.

  6. Amazing video .. brings back great memories .. I was actually at the real opening night with my entire family. My mother won the right to buy tickets to the event. It poured like crazy and we were sitting in the 500 level behind where home plate would be. There were doubts that night about opening the roof as it was raining so hard. Part of the PARADE of people on ground level into the stadium included Torontonians of numerous descents. Many were wearing “traditional” clothing that I believe got ruined in the rain. Hence the opposition to opening the roof. We were spared a total drenching because we were sitting almost directly under a light standard. I also remember the Dome was not quite finished and there were numerous areas roped off.

    Remember the days too when you had to buy tickets in January for the season and all single seats were by lottery? Toronto was crazy then .. Would be amazing if we could get to that point again. The Dome has served it purpose and while people think they would rather a Jacobs or Camden yards this is really not practical.

    The Dome is on the edge of the Lake and it would be the worst stadium experience in the majors if forced to watch a game there in April/May or g-d forbid October ..

    Going to 1st game since last year in 2 weeks and looking forward to seeing the changes to Windows. I think they can make the Dome more than serviceable with some further upgrades. It is a great place to watch a game in Summer with a big crowd and roof open.

    Thanks for the memories SkyDome .. I wish I had won the NAME THE DOME contest and got the LIFE TIME SEASON tickets!


  7. “You’re… uh… not that big a detriment to the enjoyment of Major League Baseball in this city!”

    If you just read that sentence alone, you’d swear it was about Drunk Jays Fans.

  8. Ok…that video was amazing.

    And fuck yes “we did it” to the tune of $600m taxpayer dollars…I already own a piece of that fucking roof.

  9. WE DID IT!

  10. Hey Stoeten,

    It’s not my intent to be a dick by mentioning this, rather, bring up a discussion that is bigger than both you and I.

    You quoted about 30 to 40% of the Kerri piece and describe almost all of it, but you mentioned in the podcast yesterday that you were hesitant to give too much away of Law’s paywall’d work. In addition, in the past, you have been hesitant in what other paywall’d Jays related stuff you would pass on.

    Ultimately, the main difference is that Kerri’s work is advertisement based, and Law’s is subscription based. The economic models on selling the work is different, but it’s still just content on the Jays at the end of the day.

    Kerri’s work is just as proprietary as Law’s work, but the difference is no monthly charge on your credit card, but you have to look at a subway ad.

    The results are, is that some info is now deemed public, and some private. If that is not messed up enough, a blog format, which I believe this still is, constantly uses content which it really does not have permission to publish in the form of video etc., so why would this be different?

    Just wondering if you thought about/realized this.

    • Really? in the words of alex rios

      “who gives a fack?”

    • Are you fucking kidding me?

      First of all he did no quote 30-40% of the article… Kerri’s article is several pages long.

      Stoeten sourced the piece and linked directly to it. If anything, he’s increasing site traffic to the Grantland article.

      Fuck right off.

      • Of the Jays related part, yes he did (and please don’t think of as a criticism of Stoeten, rather, as an example).

        So by your rational, if you think that you are “helping’ the author of whom you are either using or not using their content that is the determining factor of weather to post their content? Pretty fucking subjective if you ask me. How do you know what is in their best interest?

        So if the Star decides to change a dollar a month to see their content on line does that mean no more Gfiff Bag?

        One of the reasons I like baseball so much is that I think it is a barometer of what is happening in N. American society. As for as third party use of content,this is another example of that.

        If you don’t enjoy, or choose not to think critically of such things I apologize for wasting your time.

    • It’s a fair question.

      Keri earns money from site traffic. Keri gets site traffic precisely because Stoeten links 30-40% of his article–the teaser increases interest in reading the rest, if it’s good, leading to more site traffic for Keri.

      Law earns money from subscriptions. People subscribe to Law because they can’t get the article elsewhere. In other words, Law would get less money if Stoeten wrote out 40-50% of Law’s article.

  11. When I read stuff like this, it makes me wonder how many people on here who complain about the ‘gameday experience’ or whatever at the Dome have even been to games at other places.

    SkyDome is far from great, but I think what Keri is saying is pretty spot on and it could be a lot worse considering when the stadium was built.

    • Take out the back if the stadium and we are all good

    • A lot of the Jay’s fans I know tend to compare optimal conditions between stadiums – and yeah, who wouldn’t love a warm sunny afternoon at Fenway over the concrete convertable – but man would you have a bunch of brutal games each year given TO’s weather if we had some of those other stadium designs that fans lust over.

      My first ever part-time job (a lifetime ago) was selling peanuts and popcorn at Foothills and McMahon stadiums in Calgary and everyone would always gush about what a fantastic beaucolic job that must be – spending a few hours a week in those lovely, outdoor, intimate, natural grass, stadiums. Ignoring the fact both were completely unsuitable for human habitation for large chunks of their respective seasons (and of course the terrible cold, windy, scorching, brutal, and rained out days were the ones where you could end up losing money since it was a straight commission affair).

      Sure the Dome has lots of things we’d like to see improved, but I’m not sure enough credit is given into always having affordable 500 level seats, not really a bad sight line in the place, being as central to public transit as humanly possible, and being assured that games actually get played. Those are the things that are set in stone and the Dome does a damn sight better than a lot of places on those fronts. The rest is aethestics (which can always be improved)

      But yeah, lets absolutely do something about beer selection.

  12. 24. Shit, I am old.

    Know what? With the roof open it really isn’t that bad other than still having turf (fuck off Argos). The location is ideal for out of town booze fiends such as yours truely.

  13. Do you remember the TSN tv show called “Skydome” that aired in the months leading up to the opening of the tomb? I remember thinking it was so futuristic and awesome. Ahhh, memories.

    • I wanted to name my dog skydome when I was younger but my parents went with Misty. RIP Misty aka Skydome.

  14. I recall going to my first baseball game, that summer of 1989. I sat in the 500′s, as a youngster.

    Been hooked ever since.

    Holy fuck, am I ever old…

  15. In honour of the ‘Domes birthday the Jays should declare all player contracts retractable.

  16. I know it’s fun to pick on the skydome, but the handful of times I’ve been there, I thought it was a pretty good facility and I can’t say that I care as much about the rest of you on the grass issue.

    The times when my experience was ruined, it was because of some dick trying to pick a fight with the poor highschool aged usher rather than the building itself.

  17. Speaking of the Dome events, one of my favourite Raptors experiences was the time the Bulls came to town and there was, like 30,000+ fans in attendance. A Raps win, on a great night!

    • I too, saw a Raptors game in the SkyDome. Man was THAT weird.

    • I was at that came with a buddy from university. We got the $5 Shoppers Drug Mart tickets in London, ON (Go ‘Stangs, Go!) and hopped on a Greyhound. Our tickets were 500 level, between 3rd base and the foul pole, iirc, behind/underneath one of the banks of lights (row 20+). The game was incredible and it was the only chance that I got to see Michael Jordan live (though we were so bloody far from the court that I could only tell him apart from Ron Harper by the calf warmer sleeve that Jordan always wore). Good times.

  18. The Grantland piece links to the game at the Ex that Keri thinks he was at. Two future Blue Jay World Series winners were on the opposing team, but none on the Blue Jays roster.

    Nerd fact of the day, I guess.

  19. I found a book at a book fair a few weeks ago called Building the Skydome. It’s a huge hardcover that detailed all the steps of the design and construction and grand opening and everything. Anyways, it showed the 4 design finalists shown here http://instagram.com/p/Yk-YXJslMy/ Pretty interesting to consider what it would be like had one of the other 3 been chosen instead.

    I kind of like the one shown in the bottom right, I imagine the shadows during games would be awful though.

    • Bottom right one is very cool but yeah, I imagine the shadow problem is what took it out of contention.

      But if those arms retracted below the stadium! Sure, it’d make the engineering cost over a billion but totally worth it! That’d still be cool.

  20. Laroche only temp until Lawrie back?

  21. The good thing about the Dome is its location; right Downtown. Most Stadiums around the league are in the middle of nowhere, and on top of that you have to drive to get there.
    Ill take a crappy park 5 minutes away from my house downtown over a state-of-the-art park out in Orangeville any fucking day of the week.

    • agree 1000000000%

      I went to New Yankee Stadium last year, and even though it’s accessible by subway, it was a painful experience trying to get there on the train along with 50,000 other people all coming form Manhattan and Brooklyn

    • If a new park was target field Esque, I would travel the distance to see a beautiful place

  22. Blanco DFA’d. About fucking time!! Thole is up, hopefully means less ABs for jpa!

    • Serious!!! That’s fucking awesome!!!! I wasn’t going to drink today, but now I’ve got to celebrate. All Thole has to do is get 1 rbi, and he has already out performed Blanco.

  23. This may come off as ignorant as fuck, but I actually love the Dome, I don’t even know why it gets knocked around (other than that thin piece of “grass” we have).

    • Grass is all they need. But after watching 50 or so games at exhibition stadium, and the fact that it’s generally a hitters ball park, not to mention the home during those glory years… I too love the dome. It is a concrete monster, but it blends in so well with the all the other concrete infrastructure that surrounds it.

    • You say “thin grass”, thats cool. I thought it was “angel hair” dyed green. That stuff you put under the tree, to put your presents on.

  24. For all you who say that the next stadium should have some open portion, like the one in Seattle, well Seattle’s climate is a hell of a lot warmer than Toronto’s. We piss and moan about the dome, but if we were all freezing our asses off in April or October, we would be bitching and moaning about it being too cold.

    • Even when it was ‘warm enough’ to open the dome a couple times so far, it’s been cold as fuck in the shade. Probably be open tonight too which will be cold and windy by 9:00.

      Worst spring ever this year.

  25. I’ve been saying this for eons.
    When the NFL comes to town (yes, it will happen eventually), the pointyball folks will drop the RC floor to accomodate more seats to an expanded lower-bowl, replace the field-facing hotel rooms with suites or seats, and suddenly find themselves a 65,000+ seat football stadium. Studies have already been commissioned that show it’s entirely possible, structurally-speaking.
    Which will leave Rogers/Jays with the freedom to explore building a new ballpark. Think the Port Lands. Think skyline views and waterfront exposure. Think retractable roof but faux-throwback styling like Seattle, including glass walls that open and close for the elements a la Milwaukee and Houston.
    The cost to build an NFL stadium these days exceeds $1billion, which borders on extortion. The smart economics have the ‘dome being reno’d for football and a new ballpark built for the Jays. Everyone wins. Just have patience, and hug a pointyball fan when you see one. They just might be the lifeblood for a new ballyard.

  26. I’ve been to 45 pro parks, including all of the current ones. Skydome ranks 30th on my list, and is ahead of only 4 other current parks (Yankees, Angels, Rays, and A’s.)

  27. If they put in natural grass, and are able to continue to improve the outfield look … maybe even taking out some seats … then I will be totally fine with the dome. It’s a pretty fucking great location. Look at all these US ballparks that are in the equivalent of Mississauga.

  28. I Liked the Ex. Oh,it was a craphole, but it was home. I was literally the last one to leave the last game against the White Sox. They had to throw me out of there. If you ever sat on one of those uneven seats in the old Cleveland stadium, well the Ex seemed like a palace.

  29. Not to say that the Dome is not without its faults. It certainly lacks the charms of a PNC in Pittsburgh or Camden in Baltimore, but believe me, it could be worse. Ask a Red Sox fan who sits through 20 + games a year at 100 year old Fenway park. Places like Fenway, Wrigley and Dodger Stadium are great to visit once, and in comparison to the Dome in a one off exerience are far greater but if you were going back day after day, week after week, you would tire of the cramped seats, cramped concourse, lack of washrooms, lack of concessions, etc.

    One thing the Dome doesnt get more credit for is that it started a trend toward downtown, urban stadiums. When it opened in 1989, the trend was to build stadiums outside of the city, with endless amound of parking surrounding them and nothing else. SkyDome was situated minutes from the financial district/downtown core (and after further development around the stadium you could argue the centre of the downtown core — with the ACC, Maple Leaf Square, King and Queen).

    Re: Craft brews, it would be nice but the wheels of progression move slowly. It used to be Labatt Blue and Blue Light were all that was offered. Thats it. Keiths and Stella were added over the last few years, this year Steamwhistle came on board. Im sure the marketing people hear the cries. Agreements will be made and orders placed and filled. Be patient!

  30. I’ve been to about 10 other ballparks, including Wrigley, Fenway, Cellular, Yankee Stadium (both versions), CitiField, PNC, Cleveland, Seattle, Tampa and Anaheim.

    The dome is in the middle of the pack for me among these. With inclement weather, the dome guarantees baseball which is nice especially in April. On a warm sunny day, it’s okay. The 500 level is too high above the action and too steep. I won’t sit anywhere above the 5th row in the 500s… it just gives me the heebie jeebies.

    The food selections on the 100 selection are comparable to other stadiums, nothing out of the ordinary, much better than way back when McDonalds was the primary vendor. Beer and alcohol is way too expensive, so don’t drink it. I bring in soft drinks ($.60) and peanuts ($1), buy my hotdog on the way in and buy one item from the concessions, and if I feel like splurging or got a great deal on Stubhub, I might spring for a beer.

    Real grass would make the old dome SO much better. They gotta figure out a way to overlay the grass when the argos and conventions are hosted and not ruin the grass. Maybe they lose some seats when football is played… it’s not like they pack the place.

  31. the marlins competition must be upset that their fans are no longer showing up to cheer them when they play in miami.

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