There might be a major problem with the new renovations at Rogers Centre
The Toronto Blue Jays return to a very different-looking Rogers Centre today for their home opener.
The latest round of renovations has reshaped the aging stadium’s outfield fan experience, but one of these changes will put visiting opponents uncomfortably close to rowdy home team fans.
Possibly even too close.
On a recent media preview of the much-hyped Outfield District renovations, I will admit I was taken aback by the proximity of fan seating to the visiting bullpen.
All that separates fans from the space where opposing relief pitchers will warm up is a porous chain-link fence and a small glass railing that even a moderately athletic child could clear.
The distance between fans and bullpen at Rogers Centre post reno is quite something. pic.twitter.com/wd0W4bVOei
— Sid Seixeiro (@Sid_Seixeiro) April 11, 2023
Fans will be mere feet from visiting pitchers, a fact acknowledged by Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro, during the reveal of the new outfield spaces.
“We’re going to get our fans closer to our players, probably closer to the visiting players than they want, but that’s OK,” said Shapiro.
Sanj Perera, senior manager of project management for the Blue Jays, told media that the exposed bullpen comes with increased security controls.
“To say there won’t be heckling, that’s probably not the fair thing to say,” said Perara. “But we’re confident that we’ve got a good group of fans in Toronto, and everyone’s going to abide by the rules.”
However, not everyone shares Perara’s sunny outlook.
Buck, saying the fans are too close to the players in Oakland, is gonna be excited about the new bar/standing area beside the visiting bullpen at Skydome.
— Brad “Kikuchi Redemption Tour 2023” C (@_bradc_) April 8, 2023
In addition to standing-room spaces right next to the visiting bullpen, a few people share the concern that a new bar directly above the pen will give fans a perch to hurl more than just insults.
Hope so otherwise security will be busy
— Rachel Snagg (@MagneticTurtle9) April 6, 2023
If you need a refresher on why people think this might not be the best idea, Toronto Blue Jays fans have humiliated themselves in past run-ins with opposing players during high-intensity games.
Home field advantage!
— Kristoffer Pedlar (@KPedlar) April 6, 2023
During the Blue Jays’ memorable playoff runs in 2015 and 2016, two separate beer-throwing incidents cast Jays fans in a negative light to a global audience, and things got so bad that canned beer was even banned at the Rogers Centre for a portion of the 2016 postseason run.
And those incidents happened with much more separation between visiting players and impulsive and possibly drunk Jays fans.
Fans’ interactions with visiting players are often positive, and one Twitter user sees potential for some adorable moments between players and spectators this season.
Do you think he will do this with fans by the bullpen in Toronto? https://t.co/VdobijmW0n
— myq (@kid_atlantis) April 7, 2023
The Toronto Blue Jays will host the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre for their April 11 home opener, where fans (and visiting pitchers) will get their first experiences with the new outfield spaces.