Rogers Centre undergoing makeover

Rogers Centre undergoing offseason makeover

TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays are tinkering with their ballpark again this winter, feathering the nest to make their home stadium a little more fan-friendly.

It's been almost a year since the team purchased the stadium known as SkyDome, renamed it Rogers Centre, and then installed a new playing surface and a video display system, featuring out-of-town scoreboards built into the outfield wall.

Toronto fans responded to the changes by clicking through the turnstiles more frequently last summer. The Jays drew almost 25,000 people per game to their new-look ballpark, and the team topped the two-million mark in season attendance for the first time since 1999.

Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey said taking control of the stadium led to a "dramatic improvement" in the team's relationship with fans.

"We've put a lot of money into the building just to improve the cleanliness and general day-to-day maintenance," he said. "The response that we got from the public has been very good."

Now the team is planning another offseason of upgrades to its lakefront home. Godfrey said three major projects are in the works this winter and that the Jays are already talking about plans for 2007.

The biggest project is an overhaul of the concourse that rings the field level seats. Godfrey said the area will be widened and brightened by removing some seats that are covered by the stadium's second deck.

"They're not the greatest seats," Godfrey said. "What we're going to do is take out about three rows of seats and basically widen the concourse area, make it brighter and improve the way the concession stands look, just give it an overall better feel."

Also in the works is a re-fit of the club seating area in the stadium's second deck.

"We're going to shrink it a little bit to make it more exclusive," said Godfrey, adding that the new club section will also boast a buffet dining section and theater-style seats.

Finally, the team is renovating 43 luxury boxes and will convert some of them into larger party suites that can accommodate as many as 150 people.

"There seems to be a demand to have bigger suites where people can hold executive office parties, larger birthday parties, bigger evenings out with bigger crowds."

The team is already looking ahead to next winter, Godfrey said, when they plan to "totally rebuild" the Blue Jays' clubhouse and weight room area below the third-base stands. The visitors' clubhouse may also get a makeover.

"Capital dollars are always at a premium," Godfrey said. "It all depends on budget availability, but we're hoping to do that as well."

Another project on the long-term agenda involves adding some type of facade to the exterior of the stadium, a monolith that is oft criticized for being cold and imposing.

"We've been working on the inside of the building first," Godfrey said. "What we would plan to do in a future phase is look at the outside of the building and try to soften the concrete look out there as well."

Ian Harrison is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.