MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says Rogers Centre ‘needs an update’

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred comments on potential renovations to Rogers Centre.

TORONTO – Rob Manfred picked up the Toronto Blue Jays’ push for a renovation of Rogers Centre during a visit to the city Tuesday, describing the building as one that, “needs an update to make it as economically viable as possible.”

The commissioner also suggested the team needs more premium seating during a media session, echoing recent comments made by club president and CEO Mark Shapiro, with whom he met earlier in the day.

Manfred also had a meeting scheduled with team chairman Edward Rogers and other members of ownership at Rogers Communications Inc. (which also owns Sportsnet) after his 15-minute media session, with the topic of the renovation sure to have been among the matters discussed.

“The stadium when it was built was a great building, one of our best,” said Manfred. “Given the passage of time the building is probably out of date in terms of the amenities that are available in many of our ballparks, the physical design of the stadium.

“So many of our stadiums have millennial areas, things like that that have been built and become popular more recently,” he continued. “While the building is fundamentally sound, it needs an update to make it as economically viable as possible.”

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Manfred didn’t outline his suggestions of what a renovation should look like, describing that as a local matter for ownership and Shapiro “to work through in terms of the size of the investment.”

But he did repeat a point frequently made by Shapiro when he said: “I do know that there’s limited premium seating in this facility. In a market as robust as Toronto, if it were my club I’d probably want a lot more than you have.”

During a March interview with Sportsnet, Shapiro described a renovation of Rogers Centre, which opened in 1989, as “probably one of the biggest levers if not the biggest lever on the Blue Jays business model moving forward.”

During a Pitch Talks event in April, Shapiro said, “there’s been absolute alignment and recognition and support (from ownership), it’s only a question of how do we best do it,” in regards to a renovation.

The Blue Jays hope to modernize to dome by creating a different set of experiences for fans around the stadium as well as expanding the premium seating areas, something Shapiro insists is necessary to keep pace with the revenue-generating abilities of key AL East rivals the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Such a project would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars and be privately financed.

Meanwhile, Manfred added that he plans to meet with the group working to bring baseball back to Montreal in the spring.

Other highlights from Manfred’s availability:

• On the pace-of-play changes introduced before the start of the season: “I have not talked to Tony (Clark, the players’ union head) about the success or lack of it. I am positive about the changes we made for two reasons. First, they have not caused any disruption in play. Whenever you change a rule in baseball, people predict all sorts of dire outcomes and we have avoided even the smallest of incident related to either the mound-visit rule or the shorter-inning breaks. Secondly, I’m positive about them because they’ve been effective. We are way down in terms of mound visits, I think about 50 per cent, and our inning breaks are significantly shorter. I take both of those as positives in an ongoing effort to make sure we’re producing an entertaining product with as little dead time as possible.”

• On whether the implementation of a pitch-clock remains a possibility: “We’re just digesting the two rules (implemented this season). I’m not in a position where I’m going to say for certain whether or not we’re going to have a pitch clock at the big-league level. I will say in general terms I have been a proponent of those clocks. … I think the pitch clock has been effective in minor-league baseball in terms of improving the pace of play.”

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