It wasn’t their first plan. It wasn’t their second plan. It wasn’t even their third or fourth plan, but the Toronto Blue Jays found a new home away from home at Sahlen Field in Buffalo.
After the Canadian government denied the team’s request to play games in Toronto at Rogers Centre, once plans fell through to play home games at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Camden Yards in Baltimore, and after Dunedin, Florida was no longer an option, it looked like the Blue Jays might be homeless.
Plans A-through-D didn’t pan out, but after much dismay, they landed on Buffalo, New York as their home ballpark for the 2020 season.
Technically, the Blue Jays played their Home Opener a few weeks ago as the home team at Nationals Park in Washington on July 29, but Tuesday will mark Toronto’s unofficial Home Opener against the Miami Marlins.
The decision to move the Blue Jays to Buffalo came at the 11th hour, which forced the team to scramble over the last few weeks to get Sahlen Field ready to host Major League ballgames.
Among many things, this included installing a brand new lighting system for night games, extending the dugouts and bullpens, replacing the infield turf, and redesigning the rest of the stadium to accommodate the Blue Jays and visiting teams arriving in Buffalo.
Marnie Starkman is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Operations with the Blue Jays, and she told reporters that upgrading the lighting at Sahlen Field was integral to the project.
“There’s an outfield reading and an infield reading, and the stadium was not to par; it’s not only player safety, but it’s broadcast as well,” Starkman said. “They replaced every lightbulb on the existing standards in the ballpark, and they added two additional Musco Lighting trucks to get the lighting levels up to par.”
Considering they had less than three weeks to get this project done, Sahlen Field underwent a complete facelift in a brief span. The Blue Jays’ adorned the stadium with their signature colour; from the hallways, to the concourse, to the seats.
The Blue Jays reconfigured the locker rooms and training rooms to allow for physical distancing, spacing individual lockers for players six feet apart. The former “Pub at the Park” dining room transformed into a dining area for players.
Even Charlie Montoyo’s office is equipped with his required musical instruments. His area was a modest meeting room at Sahlen Field.
Visiting players will appreciate their new view as they take the field in Buffalo, with freshly painted walls and turfed floors.
While the Blue Jays will enjoy the comforts under the roof at Sahlen Field, the visitors have their own separate compound in a parking lot beyond the centre field scoreboard. As constructed, the home and visiting clubhouses could only house 15 players per room.
The team brought four trucks worth of equipment from Rogers Centre and set it up in Buffalo as best as they could to replicate how a regular home game would look and feel.
Fans themselves can’t witness the renovations in-person, but like most ball clubs, the Blue Jays installed cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands, so they could “virtually” be there for the action.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 10, 2020
The Blue Jays play their very first “home” game on Tuesday at 6:37 pm ET in Buffalo against the Miami Marlins.