Reports of a plan to demolish the Rogers Center have Blue Jays fans dreaming of a more intimate, scenic, and well-stocked baseball stadium in its place.
But the 31-year-old stadium owners say overhaul of any kind will have to wait.
“Before the pandemic we were exploring options for the stadium, but throughout this year our main focus has been on keeping our customers connected and ensuring the safety of our employees, so there is no need to upgrade. day on the Rogers Center to share for now, ”Rogers spokesperson Andrew Garas said Friday.
The statement came after The Globe and Mail reported that Rogers and real estate giant Brookfield Asset Management Inc. were seeking to demolish the stadium as part of a larger development project.
Citing anonymous sources, The Globe reported that two companies would build a new half-size stadium in the southern part of the current site and use the remaining land for residential towers, office buildings, shops and public spaces. . Building a new stadium by the lake if the initial plan fails is also an option, according to the report. Brookfield declined to comment on the matter.
Rogers owns the stadium, but not the land on which it sits, which is leased to the Canada Lands Company until 2088 and zoned for stadium use only, Sportsnet reported in 2018.
The City of Toronto said no formal planning requests had been submitted to redevelop the Rogers Center, while a spokesperson for Mayor John Tory said neither he nor his office staff were participating in any discussions on the subject. Tory told city council and staff last year he would not participate in any discussions about the stadium’s future as he remains in the trust of the Rogers family after a previous role as the company’s chief executive.
Lobbying records show that the most recent recorded activity regarding the Rogers Center took the form of a meeting with Councilor Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York where the stadium is located, in July 2019 and an October 2019 meeting with Cressy staff.
Cressy told The Star last August that he accepted an invitation in July to meet with officials from the Blue Jays, Rogers and Brookfield to discuss “in general terms” their plans for the dome baseball stadium.
At the time, Cressy said that redeveloping the stadium on the existing grounds would be an important anchor for the city center and the city as a whole, and that any renovations must be done with private money. The group Cressy met did not have a proposal to share at the time, he said.
Cressy has heard nothing more since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If there is an ambition for broader land revitalization, we need to work together to make sure it adheres to good planning principles and good public process,” he said on Friday in a statement. communicated.
If and when Rogers, Brookfield and the Jays are ready to resume talks, Cressy said, he will ensure there is a “clear understanding that public funds are not to be used to pay for a revitalized stadium.”
Rogers said on Friday that any redevelopment project would be funded by the private sector.
Downtown Toronto City Councilor Mike Layton said he did not know the details of the reported plan, but agreed more public money should not go to the site or to a new stadium.
“We paid enough,” Layton (Ward 11 University-Rosedale) said in an interview Friday.
The then Metro Council and the Ontario government were originally priced at $ 60 million combined out of the original price of $ 225 million, but ended up paying a total of $ 350 million afterwards. that the cost of the stadium has climbed to nearly $ 600 million.
The stadium is not in his neighborhood, but Layton sits on the Toronto-East York Community Council that may receive any redevelopment proposals before they are referred to the full city council.
“We paid a lot of money to build this (SkyDome) and then it sold for $ 25 million. I don’t know the proposal so I won’t try to give a definite ‘No’ now to anything they want to do with the site, ”he said,“ but I hope we don’t see more taxpayer money. for a stadium that should offer public transportation, affordable housing and parks for residents – not just a handful of big leagues.
Layton, who led the council’s response to climate change, also questioned any plans to demolish the current stadium, saying a principle of reducing carbon emissions is to reuse existing infrastructure rather than destroy, throw and rebuild.
Richard Peddie, longtime president of the sports industry, president of the Rogers Center between 1989 and 1994, said the idea of building a new stadium on the existing plot was just not practical.
“There’s no way you could do it on the same site because that would mean the team has to play somewhere else for three or four years. You would need to keep that open while you build elsewhere, ”Peddie said. “… There must be natural grass. It should be an open-air stadium that you can cover, rather than a dome-shaped stadium where you can roll back the roof. It should be smaller. And wearing my progressive hat, there should be no money from any level of government for that.
The Rogers Center landed 27th out of 30 in the Ballpark Digest MLB stadium rankings last July. Changes to the stadium are no longer within the purview of Jays president Mark Shapiro, with Rogers now leading the case, but he told The Star in February, before the pandemic struck, that there could be more. upgrades to be announced in 2021.
“A lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of focus on the part of the people – both within our property and even a few people within our building – continue to be spent exploring the next steps in a much bigger plan, ”he said. “It’s incredibly complex, and I think it will be clear once it’s announced, and that’s why it’s taken so long. “
With files from Gregor Chisholm, Tess Kalinowski, Josh Rubin and The Canadian Press
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