Skydome – Still Great After 20 Years?

Skydome turns 20 this year, and The Star’s Garth Woolsey has written a nice summary of the building’s pros and cons. Yes, there is plenty of history, but many other cities have built beautiful outdoor ballparks in recent years, and the dome may have lost some appeal with many fans in Toronto. From Woolsey’s article:

“The Rolling Stones and the Backstreet Boys played there, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama spoke there, folks mourned Princess Diana and egged on Hulk Hogan there, the Jays won a pair of World Series (“touch ’em all Joe”), the Argos had Grey Cup-winning seasons, and consenting adults did unmentionable things in the hotel rooms overlooking the outfield, teenagers had first dates and/or beers, friendships were forged, marriages were proposed and accepted.

It really is something unique to behold, the place corporately called the Rogers Centre but still good, old SkyDome underneath, an engineering marvel, as much machine as building.

But two decades on, the place is also showing signs of advancing age, if not structurally so much as in the public imagination. Its vastness and greyness can give it the feel and sound of a mausoleum, the sterility of a hospital operating theatre. Its bells and whistles can’t hide its oh-so 1989 feel – that’s the year the Berlin Wall came down and Driving Miss Daisy won the best picture Oscar.

Once a must-attend, it has also gradually slipped down the list of best places to watch baseball: ESPN rated all 30 ballparks in 2006 and the SkyDome came in at No.23, exactly the same rating gave it last month in a more recent set of rankings.

Columnist Jim Caple of “SkyDome is like the rich kid in your neighbourhood who was the first to get a TV/ VCR/PlayStation/DVD player. He seemed incredibly cool for a while, but as soon as everyone else got something newer and better, no one wanted to visit him any more.”

But really, what can the Blue Jays and the city of Toronto do? Nothing much, as far as I can tell. When the city bid on the 2008 Olympics, there was a plan to build a new stadium, and redesign parts of downtown. At this point, in this economy, there is little chance of any changes in the near future, with no plans to build a new facility anytime soon.

Personally, I love the ability to avoid rainouts, and Toronto is mighty cold in April. Still, how nice would it be to have a beautiful ballpark like so many cities have built in recent years? When Skydome (I still refuse to call it Rogers Centre) has at least 30,000 fans, it’s great, but it has absolutely no feel when the fans don’t show up. Clearly it’s a huge upgrade from old Exhibition Stadium, but many fans are less than enthused. What are your thoughts on the building, 20 years later?


Woolsey is here.

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