After his previous two trips to Canadian cities–Vancouver and Montreal–yielded little in the way of Major League Baseball satisfaction, my father decided he would follow the Nationals to Toronto this summer to cap off his maple trifecta. I was unable to attend due to the fact that I’m now an employed college graduate, but my dad was gracious enough to review his Rogers Centre experience for this site. I couldn’t help but chime in along the way. Enjoy!
By: Tom Miller — Senior Travel Correspondent and Steve’s Father
If George Jetson was a baseball fan, he would feel right at home watching games in Toronto’s futuristic Rogers Centre. (Tom: I apologize to those who are not familiar with the classic cartoon The Jetsons. Steve: If I apologized for every not-even-obscure reference I’ve made on this blog, I would have bored myself out of a hobby a long time ago.)
I am old enough to remember when the Toronto “SkyDome” opened in 1989. The Blue Jays were a formidable club back then under manager Cito Gaston and regularly beat up on my (at that time) beloved Orioles, (Steve: Sometimes my dad needs channels through which to output some of his more useless bits of trivia–e.g. Gatson–I’m just glad I can provide one such channel.)
From the descriptions I read, it sounded like an awesome stadium and I dreamed of visiting it one day. I was fortunate enough to see a game at this modern marvel a few months ago and wanted to share my thoughts on The Top Step.
In the late spring, somewhat on a whim, we decided we’d visit Toronto and watch the Nationals play the Blue Jays for their weekend series in mid-June. We scheduled our flights taking advantage of some frequent flyer miles (Steve: I’m still not convinced frequent flyer miles didn’t fund my food as a child) and found an AirBnB condo.
I was hoping that all three of my sons could go on this trip, but alas, Steve’s employer decided he needed to work. (Tom: Work can be such a drag. Steve: It’s okay. The Air Force was smart enough to schedule me in Colorado the same time the Marlins would be there.) So, I ventured to Toronto with my oldest son, Charlie, and my youngest, Joe.
We ended up taking a late night flight on Friday and were not able to make the first game of the series. The Saturday game was a 4:05 start. We traveled to the stadium on a streetcar (Steve: named?), which was very convenient. The downtown Toronto transit system was efficient. My fist impression walking up to the Rogers Centre was its enormous round, almost flying saucer, type shape. The modern looking façade is quite a contrast to the retro architecture and intimate ballparks that are all the rage in the newer stadium designs.
Once inside the stadium, it felt more like a basketball or hockey arena (Steve: Canada would design their only baseball stadium to feel like a hockey arena). The concourses were small and fully enclosed. Entering the seating area of the stadium, it had the feel of a large bowl. It seemed very modern and symmetrical. Not much character in my opinion. The batter’s box, pitcher’s mound, and base paths were all dirt. However, the rest of the playing surface was the artificial turf you often see at community soccer fields (Tom: blades of artificial grass with black rubber pellets embedded. Steve: I think I’m still finding those pellets from intramural games that ended in April.). The in-stadium hotel was a neat feature. I could imagine sitting in a hotel room and taking in the game. The retractable roof is an engineering marvel as well. Supposedly, you could build a 31 story building on the playing surface and still close the roof. Impressive!
We made our way to our seats, which were in section 211. The view of the field was good and these seats were considered the “best value” on Stub Hub or Seat Geek. Unfortunately, with a 4:05 start, we were looking directly in to the setting sun for the first 4 or 5 innings (Steve: sometime’s it’s a “value” for a reason). The upper deck seating (the 500 level) seemed very far from the field. There was not much overlap with the 200 level and the seats sloped away from the field. I imagine they are affordable seats, but you would probably feel far removed from the on-field action. The 100 level seats seem fine. Given the stadium’s symmetrical arrangement, I don’t imagine there is a bad seat down there. The high dollar seats are called the King Club around section 121.
There were a number of bar areas that had a view of the field so you could watch the game. There was a little bar near my seat by section 215. I took advantage of this bar to get out of the sun and enjoy a cold beverage. I had the opportunity to meet a nice Canadian couple about my age, Anna and David. They were pleasant and enjoyable to talk to. The stereotype is true – Canadians are a very polite people! (Steve: Canadian stereotypes are on point. I lived with one and a half Canadians for three years in college. Sometimes their agreeability and maple syrup usage are pleasant to a fault. Tom: One and a half? Steve: Yes. Mark and Bradley’s maternal half.)
There is a large bar area overlooking the outfield from the 200 level called the West Jet Flight Deck. I heard that is very popular and many people arrive there early to claim their spot.
The stadium food offerings seemed pretty typical. On the first level, there were a lot of food options. A chat with some local Jays fans yielded the advice that the food is best on the first level and gets worse as you go up in the stadium (Steve: Makes sense. I doubt the people who pay $5 for tickets would shell out $21 for artisan poutine and a cannabis microbrew). There is a Tim Horton’s inside the park (Tom: The famous Canadian coffee shop chain Steve: And there’s a Waffle House at SunTrust Park and a Shake Shack in NYC and D.C. Now we just need a Denny’s at Marlins Park).
Overall, I had a nice time on visit to Toronto and the Rogers Centre (Tom: although my beloved Nats got swept and did not play well. Steve: story of 2018.). But I would say if you are doing a tour of MLB stadiums, I would not put this one high on your list.