Seating capacity at the downtown stadium will double to 30,000 starting in the series opener Tuesday night against the New York Yankees. The Blue Jays received approval from the Ontario government for the increase on Friday.
Ontario announced Friday it was relaxing capacity limits at some sporting and event venues that require proof of vaccination.
Starting Saturday, capacity limits at outdoor events where people stand will increase to 75% of capacity or 15,000 people, whichever is less.
For outdoor events where people are seated, capacity limits will be increased up to 75% of capacity or 30,000 people. Proof of vaccination will now be required in outdoor environments where the normal capacity is 20,000 people or more.
The Rogers Center will be treated as an outdoor location even with the roof closed, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said, citing the building’s ventilation system.
Noting that nearly 80 percent of eligible Ontarians are fully immunized, Moore said “we are in a position to recommend cautious relaxation of capacity limits in some settings.”
The Blue Jays announced Thursday that they will make additional tickets available for their final home stand next week. They were hoping government regulations would be relaxed for those six games and all postseason home games if the team qualified.
Forced to play south of the border last season and part of this season due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic, the Blue Jays were cleared to return home in mid-July.
The team played their 2021 Rogers Center opener on July 30 after receiving a national interest travel exemption from the federal government. The Blue Jays have been approved to treat the stadium as an outdoor venue at just under a third of the stadium’s regular 49,000-seat capacity.
Other professional teams in the province, including the NHL, MLS and CFL clubs, returned to play earlier this year with limited attendance due to government restrictions.
Participation in Maple Leafs and Raptors games at Scotiabank Arena will be capped at 50% capacity effective Saturday.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, could certainly get the extra boost from a boisterous home crowd as Canada’s only Major League Baseball club makes a playoff effort.
Toronto, which is currently wrapping up a road trip with a weekend streak in Minnesota, will entertain the Yankees in a critical three-game set before closing the regular season against the Baltimore Orioles next weekend.
The Blue Jays will open the stadium’s upper deck – level 500 – for the first time this season and additional seats have been made available in levels 100 and 200. The team would have refunded ticket buyers if the capacity hadn’t had not been increased.
Team president Mark Shapiro said the stadium’s retractable roof will be open for as long as the weather permits, and additional measures have been taken to ensure good ventilation.
The Blue Jays require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for all fans aged 12 and over upon entering the Rogers Center. A negative COVID-19 test is no longer accepted, except for people with a doctor’s note stating that they cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.
The Blue Jays played last year’s condensed schedule at their triple-A branch in Buffalo. The team started the 2021 campaign at their spring training home in Dunedin, Fla., Before returning to Buffalo and then finally to Toronto.
Coming into play on Friday, Toronto was one game behind New York in the race for second place in the American League wild card. The Yankees were two games behind the Boston Red Sox, who held first place.
The AL wild card game is scheduled for October 5. The winner will advance to a best-of-five AL Division series starting October 7.
The Blue Jays made the playoffs last season but were swept aside by the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three wildcard streak. It was Toronto’s first playoff appearance since 2016.
Toronto’s last World Series title dates back to 1993.