Awesome stuff from Minor Leaguer at Bluebird Banter that ruined/saved a speculative post I’d been working on last night and this morning on the same subject — which I am currently trying to salvage with this mailed-in one — as he nails down what’s going on with the Jays’ turf for the upcoming season. This comes on the heels of a BBB post with fan quotes from Paul Beeston at the State of the Franchise and a whisper in the direction of the Blue Jay Hunter earlier in the week, suggesting that something indeed was happening with the Rogers Centre playing surface — which was especially being speculated about, since the turf wasn’t on the field during the SOTF event, as it has been for at least each of the last several years.

Short story: the club is attempting to wring one more season out of the surface before bringing in a new turf next season, which will cover the field until real grass is finally installed, by “replacing the infill layer in order to soften the turf.”

So… uh… this was possible all along? Because while the turf definitely became more of an issue than ever before in 2013 — in an earlier post on the subject, Bluebird Banter pointed to a tweet from Mike Ferrin, who relayed that Emilio Bonifacio was “freaked out” by fielding on the surface, though he supposedly played well at second when he moved over to Kansas City — it’s not like we haven’t known for a while. Shit, it was two years ago that Paul Beeston first admitted publicly that a grass field was a possibility, and at the time he said that it had been under consideration for ten years!!

Speaking of that — not to mention horseshit — as far as getting real grass, apparently 2018 is now “the goal,” according to a quote in the BBB piece from Jays senior vice president, business operations, Stephen Brooks.

Ugh. Remember that, when it was first being discussed two years ago, Dave Perkins reported that “they are serious about it and possibly as early as 2013,” though that’s not something the club ever said. Also remember: they’ve been considering it for ten years!

Yet now we’re hearing, via Brooks, even more  about the sorts of engineering complexities Paul Beeston has recently let dribble into his statements on the subject.

“We are currently going through a process investigating that, although the logistics for that—things like lighting, humidity levels, airflow, and the engineering of the stadium that would need to be done to address any issues that may arise as we proceed with our investigation,” he says.

Will this somehow turn into a new excuse to keep pushing back the goal posts? Seems sadly possible, seeing as they’ve had years, and have years in which to figure this stuff out.

I mean, if MLSE can be talking about a massive undertaking at BMO that would land them the Winter Classic in the 2016-17 season — the Leafs’ 100 year anniversary — and would require a roof on the stands, a massive increase in both permanent and temporary seating, and the ability to roll back an end stand to accommodate football, can we really be expected to believe that four years may not be enough for the club to get its shit together on this?

As I wrote about last week, the spectre of the NFL looms, and if the city lands a team in the near future and they need a temporary home while a new stadium is being built, the Rogers Centre is the only logical landing place — at least until it goes baseball-only. I hope to fuck this has nothing to do with the talk shifting towards a farther-off goal, despite the fact that it simultaneously seems increasingly likely that BMO could be ready to host the Argos sooner than the end of their lease at Rogers Centre. Shit, Leiweke has suggested making changes at BMO to do with the 2015 Pan Am games! We’ve been told that the Argos leaving Rogers Center would expedite this whole process, and it’s a little unnerving that such talk has become a quieter part of the discussion out of the Jays’ front office, while the engineering concerns and 2018 has become louder.

Or at least it seems as though that’s the way those aspects of the narrative have diverged of late. Maybe it’s just a matter of the Jays wanting to under promise and over deliver, but I’m sorry, it’s not exactly like they’ve earned us suspending our skepticism. There is no excuse not to get the Argos out and get this done as soon as possible. None.


Glorious image still via James_in_TO.

Comments (64)

  1. I still think, and have always thought, that the better likelihood is Argos to an expanded BMO, NFL comes to RC with a newly engineered ‘dropped floor’ and 100 level that will expand capacity over 60,000 and improve sightlines for pointyball, and will leave the new construction project being a sub-$1billion baseball park rather than a $1billion++ NFL stadium.

    • That would be the ideal scenario imo. Seems easier to convert this to a football specific, rather than baseball specific stadium.

    • absolutely … seems silly to build a 1 billion dollar football only stadium in Downsview for NFL… especially when the jays are going to spend 250 million (and that’s without any issues renovating a 25 year + stadium) for the grass renovations.. .

      • Downtown NFL stadiums all have massive amounts of surface parking that the RC site couldn’t possibly support.

        Of course, tailgating in Canada sucks anyway so maybe that isn’t such a big deal…

    • Give the NFL the prime location? Fuck that.

      • I’d be all for giving the NFL team the Rogers Centre if it gets the Jays a stadium in the port lands or as part of the new Ontario Place redevelopment. But Downsview? No fucking way.

  2. I wonder if extending the life of this turf this year (rather than a new one) is a way to wait and see what happens with BMO. If those plans move as quick as Lieweke says they could. The jays could skip the new artificial turf and move right to grass.

    Not highly likely, but could be another possibility to read into.

  3. here we go again… new baseball only stadium is looking good right about now

    • It will for the next 20 years they’re at Rogers Centre, too.

      • Great point. With all the money Rogers has poured into the Dome over the last eight years (100 Level concourse renovation, 200 Level VIP club, new Jumbotron, Outfield wall video boards, new Clubhouses, renovated luxury suites on 300 and 400, massive Jays Shop at gate 5, windowless windows and now natural grass consultants) its obvious they plan to get at least another 20 years outta the place. So all this talk of a “baseball specific park” in Toronto should be left to our chrildren’s children. Rogers didn’t become the company it is by writing cheques

  4. Once the Argos leave the only thing preventing this from happening is money, both the cost to get RC fitted with grass and any loss of income they get from stuff not happening there as a result of the new grass. So this could be a 100% example of Rogers being cheap, no ifs and or buts about it.

  5. Any upgrades in the turf will be welcome even if they are marginal.

  6. How come no one talks about Rogers building a new stadium altogether? This was a topic a few years ago, and considering the money involved, the age of the Rogers Centre and the Jays becoming a contender in the next 4 – 5 years it seems like now would be the perfect time.

    • Because they announced plans for $250 million in renovations to the dome over the next 10 years. There’s really no sense in discussing a new stadium when it obviously isn’t happening.

      • They haven’t announced squat. There is exactly zero dollars committed at this moment to any type of upgrade to RC. Zilch. The $250 million figure is attributed to a number Beeston bandied about as an approximate sum of funding that would be required to modernize RC over a decade. I’m assuming that includes some sort of veneer, a revitalization of the concourses and other cosmetic procedures in addition to the installation of a natural grass playing surface. They are not spending $250 million on grass, like I’ve seen mentioned a few times here.

        • Did I say anything about the $250 million including new grass? The point is that there is plenty of talk about significant renovations to the dome coming from Blue Jays executives (and the renovations have already started if you count the renovated windows restaurant and today’s turf refurb/replacement report). Regardless, what those renovations ultimately entail is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

          Rogers paid pennies on the dollar for the dome (barely the value of the land it sits on). Do you think they’re going to ditch it to build a billion dollar stadium in a less ideal location in the near future?

          • You said they have announced plans. They have announced nothing.

            • You’re right, my bad, they’ve announced nothing. they’ve just started renovations already…

              • Sending the old carpet to Alexanians to be ridded of moths isn’t “renovating”.

                • Let’s head down to windows restaurant to check out the fixed up carpet over some lunch…oh wait, it’s not there anymore, because they renovated it! But no worries, keep thinking what you want.

        • Under the new CBA, revenue sharing, in accordance with article XXIV, must be spent on “on field performance”, in an effort to get teams to stop paying down debt with the revenue sharing dollars. I think this includes most general baseball operations, considering that the goal is to “promote the growth of the game in Canada, US, and worldwide”. I think that this might include field improvements, as I think it fits the bill for “promoting the growth of the game” or whatever.

          Basically I think they are forced to spend the money somewhere, and considering that revenue sharing dollars are significant, (34% of profits in one pool, and then an additional pool draws upon performance factors for another chunk, in terms of a single teams contributions) I would argue that this is why we waited. Now we are forced to spend that chunk of money somewhere, and the field makes sense.

  7. “We’ll definitely get real grass at least three years out of the next five”

    - Paul Beeston, overheard at the SOTF

    • That’s your best line of the day!

    • And if we do not, what the fuck are you going to do about it.

    • Made me chuckle. Best comment I’ve seen on DJF in my short time reading comments.

      But on another note, the guy should know not to pretty much promise playoffs, considering our division and baseball in general tends to be volatile. The Yankees shouldn’t even promise that. He pretty much got himself off payroll by the time that promise expires.

  8. Can we unpack this a little bit? What exactly IS the health risk of turf?

    Is the main concern that bodies just get beaten up more when diving, sliding etc? Or is it that because thebturf is hard there is a cumulative effect on players that wears down legs/back merely by walking/running on it?

    • I think I had read somewhere that knee injuries are significantly reduced on turf compared to grass. That said, because there is less give, I imagine the strain on the joints and maybe the back is greater.

      • Yeah that’s what I figured.

        I wonder if any actual data can be used? Would something like that even be quantifiable?

  9. Good question from the fangraphs chat the other night that no one over there had an answer for.

    “So I hear that the Blue Jays are replacing the turf at the Rogers Center. Now considering the Blue Jays pitchers gb/fb rates, and the defense, which type of turf should they select? How would the different turf systems AstroTurf, FieldTurf, and real grass effect performance? Do balls roll faster on one compared to the other types? Do outfielders run faster? Looking at the current Blue Jays roaster, which turf system should they pick?”

    Anyone here have an answer?

  10. Since you mentioned MLSE & BMO Field, I think it’s pertinent to mention that BMO Field opened in 2007, by 2008 people were already groaning about the turf, in 2009 the decision was made to convert it to grass and the conversion took place before the start of the 2010 season. THAT’S how you get shit done around here.

    • It’s not really pertinent to growing grass inside Rogers Centre.

    • That’s an outdoor stadium. Completely different problems to grow grass indoors.

      • Yeah, if only they had a way to let the light inside…

        The issue is drainage, not “growing the grass”, just like it was at BMO. MLSE solved it in a year while Rogers will have stroked it for nearly 20 years by the time there are seeds in the soil.

        • Not that simple DL. The roof has to be sealed shut in the winter. It has something to do with the rails that the roof moves on expanding/contracting and also freezing. I believe the dome is considered an indoor stadium with a retractable roof. So they apparently need to find a way to artificially create optimal growing conditions through the winter.

      • it does seem kinda dumb that it would take so long. My guess is that there’s a whole lot of obscure regulations for indoor grass and vegetation that doesn’t apply to outdoor greenery. the drains and grass are one thing, getting the permits for the drains and grass are another.

  11. A couple things need to be clear about the NFL issue.

    1) The NFL has a policy, official or not, of insisting that new stadia be Football only, not shared with baseball. There is only one shared venue in the NFL between baseball and football, the Oakland Sewage Dump. There are venue shares between NFL and MLS but Soccer doesn’t play everyday. nor does it have an infield. The only allowance for a new team to share a venue was for the Expos move to Washington while they got a new stadium built. Part of the plan would have to be a temporary sharing of the Rogers Centre, but not permanent.

    2) Why would putting in grass preclude using the Rogers Centre as a shared venue? It’s not the CFL dimensions! An NFL field is less than 400 feet long (360 feet actually) so why would this be an issue?

  12. Funny how the change from astro turf to fake grass with ground up pieces of rubber was supposed to be the future.
    I walked on this site and it is surprisingly shitty. Compact, unplush, gets flatenned and true seamless connections are not what they advertise.

    Blows my mind and how corporations cheers out in some areas at the detriment of their million dollar players. It’s nice to see that they will stop trying to invent the wheel and go with mother nature. Go figure, they have successful patches of grass across the lake and over the bridge!

  13. I remember Keith Pelley saying in an interview, that an NFL field could easily fit within the baseball configuration of the Rogers Centre.

  14. Stoeten nailed it with the last paragraph.
    Come on Rogers, just get this shit done already.

  15. Let’s put in spongier, bouncier turf and sign/trade for all the speedy slap hitters in baseball.

    Push the fences back and make sure a few of them play a mean outfield and then grab flyballers galore for the pitching staff and hope we out-babip our competition. Also install the same turf at our minor league complexes so that our prospects come up used to it.

  16. http://www.fieldturf.com/en/artificial-turf/artificial-turf-news/fieldturf-proved-safer-than-natural-grass

    There’s a link to some stats about Field Turf vs Grass. I know it’s primarily related to football but it’s still interesting.

  17. I just don’t know why, with all the technology available, that they can’t install a better solution than “thin carpet on concrete”. Put in some foam or something – something to simulate dirt and grass. Come on.

    • It’s no longer thin carpet on concrete… there are multiple padding layers to the current Astroturf, there are individual (“monofiliment”) blades that stick up like grass, and the infill–which is what they are replacing–is the dirt replicate.

  18. I think what worries me is that November to April is not a very long time to do this huge construction. I have to believe that there has to be a contingency plan involving the Blue Jays either a) playing road games in the first month of the season or b) play in an alternate stadium for the first month(s) of the 2018 season.

    As for getting the Argos out quicker, I really don’t know how far they are in selecting a grass species. What I know is that they are still working with the University of Guelph to do research into making a hardier type of grass that can grow mostly indoors. If they’re still in the university lab research stage, they’re probably 2-3 years away from being able to cover the 200 thousand square foot field.

  19. maybe the jays front office looked at the amount of permits they’d need to lay sod in the skydome and simply gave up

    • I think they would have checked out the permit process fairly early (before repeatedly announcing it to the public).

  20. I am in BC, I know a few guys who can grow grass anywhere, put them on the payroll Rogers. You can have the worlds biggest grow-op during the off season while you are at it.

  21. Here’s an interesting read on the conversion process that took place at Kaufman Stadium for the KC Royals. Originally an artificial turf stadium, it was converted after the 1994 season to grass. Of course the peculiarities of the Rogers Centre being a domed stadium would entail more work than at Kaufman but nevertheless we can all agree that Kaufman Stadium is one of the jewels in the world of baseball parks, in large part due to having removed that horrible turf.


  22. You keep sounding more and more cynical – welcome to the real world of sports journalism in Toronto. While I don’t think we should make all the inferences and leaps you make (sometimes it seems like ulterior motive on top of ulterior motive) that critic you cited of yours about bloggers vs “real” journalists can now look upon these last few weeks as a watershed moment for you – welcome to the big leagues – Simmons and Cox were waiting for you. Lol. I jest (or do I? Yes. Yes I do. But who the fuck cares if I do or not?) But still you are a better read and I’ll keep coming back for more heaping bowls of chicken little.

  23. I think more than most, the Blue Jays casual walk-up attendance accounts for a large share of their total figure, so they’d be shooting themselves in the foot if they ever moved to a location you had to drive through traffic to and park at. For that reason I don’t think they’d ever concede the downtown location to the NFL in exchange for a baseball-only stadium elsewhere.

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