Phase one of Rogers Centre’s extensive renovation project saw the installation of new social spaces, dining options, and clearer vantage points for fans.
In the days and weeks leading up to its public unveiling during the Blue Jays home opener on April 11, the ball club reiterated its goal of bringing fans closer to the action.
Bernie Schneider has borne witness to some of the most iconic moments in professional sports. From Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series-winning home run to Jose Bautista’s bat flip, he’s been in the stands watching it all.
Schneider’s love of baseball began in Montreal, where he grew up. That devotion to the sport continued after he moved to Toronto.
He’s been a season ticket holder for 44 years, and says he was notified a few weeks ago that the seats he’s been sitting in for decades would no longer be his.
Phase two of the $300-million renovation project is slated to get underway during the next off-season. It will see the entire lower bowl deconstructed and rebuilt, and three new premium clubs added, vastly changing the landscape.
“Every year at the end of the year, we get a request to renew for the next year and they tell us how much it’s going to be, and we sign up and that’s it,” Schneider said during an interview with Global News.
This season, he said he paid $15,000 for his two seats, which he shares among a group of eight. Next season, that’s expected to rise sharply to $38,000.
In a statement to Global News, Blue Jays executive vice-president Anuk Karunaratne said the organization values its longtime season ticket holders, many of whom have supported the team for over 20 years.
“Over those years, fan interests have evolved, so we are working to introduce offerings that appeal to the next generation of fans, while ensuring our long-time fans have a great seat to continue proudly cheering on their Blue Jays,” it reads in part.
Karunaratne went on to say that all changes made thus far, and those to come next year, have been driven and designed by the fans.
Changes to the lower bowl will include wider seats with cupholders, improved accessibility, premium hospitality spaces, and baseball-specific sightlines.
“We know the deep history many of our long-tenured Season Ticket Members have in their current seats and we are committed to supporting our members through this transition with priority access to hand-select their new seats,” the statement continued.
While Schneider is not opposed to changes being made to Rogers Centre, he does worry about the long-term implications to price and accessibility to the game.
The overhaul of the lower bowl is anticipated to be the most intensive stage of the renovation project.
“Just try and upgrade it without all the accoutrements they seem to think that everybody wants,” said Schneider.
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