It’s called the Rogers Centre Now.
Why are people so fixed on the name Skydome. What is the opposition to calling it the Rogers Centre?
Skydome built in 1989 was a state of the art marvel for its time with approximate cost of construction was C$570 million (Approx. $850+ million in 2011 dollars). The world’s first fully retractable roof, a truly multipurpose venue, with large luxury suites, padded seats and other modern amenities making it a benchmark for newer stadiums. Along with the venue came the Jays during their greatest years bringing 2 World Series. For a time things were good.
But over 10 years things changed. The team was still owned by Labatt’s (and then to be Interbrew S.A.) What Skydome owned was the space and specifically The Suites and premium 200 Club level seating, a padded, more premium location and ownership of your seat, with the right for a ticket to any event with a paid membership fee of $3000. McDonalds owned the rights to the concessions, so it was either McD inside or McDog outside. McDonald was not a professional concessionaires. Yes a quality (hmmm) fast food place but no experience in a sports venue. For years the offering of overpriced Big Macs and fries and otherwise poorly made concession food made the ballpark experience sorely lacking.
A publicly paid for and Government run facility, the cost to of running the stadium combined with a growing incurred debt with the lack of profit was making it a burden. In November 1998, the stadium filed for bankruptcy protection. One of the main reasons was that most of the Skybox contracts were up for renewal. Almost all of the 161 Skybox’s had signed on for 10 year leases. The migration of the executive clients from the Suites and the Club Seats to the newly built Air Canada Centre left a less than enjoyable atmosphere. Throw in a declining number of events and well, the Skydome was no longer the quality venue it once was.
So, in came the new ownership, a Chicago based company called SportsCo. With internal ownership issues and a distinct lack of regard for their Canadian piece of business, Sportsco let Skydome become a white elephant, to a point where the discussion that only a new stadium will do for the Jays.
I won’t get into the Jays ownership but the bottom line is that the Jays though were tenant not owned by the same group that owned the venue, same with the Argo’s and all other properties that came through. So if you want to say that the name evokes memories of the Glory Days of the Jays and a World Series, and Grey Cup wins, ok, but those were the teams, SportsCo and the Ontario Government had little to do with it.
In 2001 Rogers bought the Blue Jays and in 2002 were able to purchase the SkyDome for $25 million dollars and assumed debt. Public outrage on the price came quickly, but ultimately it put the building into the hands of a Canadian owned business with the financial capital to upgrade the facility.
Yeah we don’t like Rogers, the name evokes the reverse billing program and bad customer service, but they immediately put in millions in renovations. Upgrading the concourse and painting the grey in the interior rings to a blue. Upgrading the sound system and replacing the aging Jumbotron with a new TV quality Video Board along with Video scoreboards in the outfield wall and along the ring of the 200 level. They upgraded all of the suites, taking out archaic smoking lounges and creating designer quality facilities.
Most importantly they got rid of the old carpet style Astroturf and brought in the new FieldTurf that more closely resembled grass and would give the baseball team a more quality diamond. Can we still complain about issues like concession pricing? Sure, but to that I say take a look at what’s available. Concession pricing is the same in every venue, but now there are wider and more fan friendly options.
The point is; Rogers is taking the time to create a better environment for the fans both on and off the field. I don’t remember Skydome doing anything to upgrade the venue. In less than 10 years it went from State of the Art Facility to White Elephant that fell to the bottom rankings on quality of venues. Rogers has put in Millions to upgrade the venue, make it more comfortable for the fan and is doing what they can to keep it moving forward as a truly world class stadium.
What did Skydome do? Nothing! So why hold onto a name of a building that only a few years ago we were willing to throw away for a new ballpark? When I think of Skydome I think of a venue that evokes cold grey, empty seats, crappy concessions and poor customer service. I think Rogers has earned the right to call it whatever they want. They own the building, they are putting in much needed money for upgrades and to top it off own the primary tenant we go see 81 times a year.
So let it go people and stop holding on to the past. Especially one that, when you think about it, doesn’t bring a lot of positive memories.
It’s Rogers Centre now.