Stephanie McMahon Q&A:

'Duk

BLS Big Ballpark Review: Toronto's SkyDome (er, Rogers Centre)

Big League Stew

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Because we've been hit with a slew of new retro-ballparks over the past 15 years here in the States, the fact that Toronto's home ballyard was initially considered a mega-marvel in its own right is sometimes forgotten. Plopped down in the middle of downtown T-Town, SkyDome was the first baseball stadium to feature a retractable roof and since the Blue Jays won back-to-back titles in '92-'93, it got plenty of television time with us Americans.

But although the park has lost some of its luster, it's still a good reason for U.S. baseball fans to keep their passports current. As I quickly learned from the park's submissions to Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review, those who live in Toronto are a friendly sort, eager to welcome you to their jewel-in-the-summer city and show it off to anyone looking for a great weekend. I've never been to Toronto, but since I've heard it's rather similar to Chicago, it's high on my list of places to go.

When I finally do make a run for the border, I'll luckily have a wealth of great ideas and recommendations from a few of the excellent bloggers that follow the Jays as well as from a few helpful readers. Their advice follows the jump below.

(Oh, and one more thing: While I went with "Progressive Field" in last Friday's review of the park in Cleveland, a few Canadians promised to stop reading the Stew if I titled this post "Rogers Centre." Since I hate to disappoint our fine neighbors to the north, SkyDome it is!)

To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com. This week's schedule: Wed. — Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Ballpark, Fri. — Chicago's Wrigley Field

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Facts and figures (More at Ballparks.com)

Address: 1 Blue Jays Way Toronto ON M5V

Opened: 1989

Capacity: 46,105

Cost: $600 million (Canadian, 1989)

Dimensions: Foul lines: 328 ft.; power alleys: 375 ft.; center field: 400 ft.; backstop: 60 ft.

Biggest moment: Joe Carter hits series-ending homer in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.

Fun fact: Even with the roof closed, a 31-story building could fit inside the Rogers Centre.

Resources

Buy ticketsRogers Centre websiteSeating chartTorontoTourism.com

How to get there

"Really, there's no excuse not to take the Subway. The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission), in spite of being staffed by cretins, is fast, efficient, and environmentally responsible. Hop on wherever, and hop off at either Union Station (where you can walk down Front Street with thousands of other Jays fans) or at St. Andrew Station, which is a little closer to the Rogers Centre." — Tao of Stieb

"(For parking), there's a reasonably priced lot on Front Street between Spadina and Bathurst. Never full, reasonably priced and close enough to the highway to be worth checking out." — Lloyd the Barber, Ghost Runner on First

"Driving is a pain because parking is always a bit of a cost burden, and leaving the stadium after the game is more painful than being surrounded by lots of food and not being hungry at the time." — Mashkur Reza, Toronto

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Before and after the game

"We're partial to a place called Smokeless Joe's ( 125 John Street), which is just a few minutes by foot away from the stadium, and has an unrivaled selection of beers (more than 250). Unfortunately, seating is limited, and we've been shut out the past few times we've gone. We also like the Over Draught Irish Pub (156 Front Street West), which is a pretty run of the mill urban Irish pub, but it's just a few minutes from the stadium, the food is good, there always seems to be room, and they serve our favorite pint (Mill Street Tankhouse Ale)." — Tao

"I personally like to avoid the bars in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark, as they are overpriced and generic chains by and large. Without getting all "here are my supercool hangouts, lowly tourist" I'd suggest the Bier Markt on the Esplanade. Lots of variety and a good crowd almost every night." — LtB

"A couple blocks north of the Dome is King Street, where you can find plenty of restaurants, bars, even a club for after the game. Beer lovers absolutely should not miss Smokeless Joe’s for their selection of 250+ beers, friendly staff, and great seafood. It’s a tiny place, but always a treat, with bottles from around the world and a few rotating local microbreweries on tap. "— Jonathan Hale, The Mockingbird

"Toronto has so much going on that you will not be hurting for things to do. Not being a native of the city, I'm not the person to ask by any means, but one thing I love in the summer is just walking around the Harbourfront area, where there is always live music, a festival of some sort, or some other activity going on. It also offers some nice quiet Waterfront walking for romantic types." — Daniel Hugo, Bluebird Banter

"If you're looking to avoid looking TOO tourist-like, feel free to snoop around Dundas Square, especially during the summer, where there's always something going on." — M.R.

"If you get to the park a few hours early, hit up the Hard Rock Cafe in the park and sit by the window looking onto the field. You'll catch the Jays batting practice and the players usually watch to see if anyone attractive is sitting there. They've been known to try to crank a few balls up to just touch the window if they want to have fun." — Jon Marshall

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"Steps from gate 8 on the south side of the Rogers Centre is the Steam Whistle brewery. Stop in before the game for a free sample or a tour. On your way there, you’ll probably see Rick, the Blue Jays Drummer. Give him a buck — he’s a Toronto institution and now an official staff member in uniform. He will shout out his appreciation without missing a beat" — J.H.

What to eat

"The Philly cheese steaks at Section 114 are pretty good, and you can get a good (though runny) burrito at Section 129. For hot dogs, your best bet is the kosher dog stand on the third base side, but the lines can be long there. Pizza Pizza is a popular Toronto choice, but as a native Brooklynite I can't recommend it. The biggest thing is that you are welcome to bring in outside food, and so you can get better food right outside the stadium for real cheap and bring it in — I also like carrying out from one of Toronto's many ethnic restaurants and bringing in." — Hugo

"There's nothing special about the concessions in the park, the dog is routine, although the street meat outside is a great value. It tastes good enough, and you'll always run into some crazies." — J.M.

"To be honest, we always hear about the good concessions at the park, but we rarely find them. On our last visit, we found a hot dog stand that has grilled onions and serves "Italian sausages", although the sausages looked suspiciously like big hot dogs to us." — Tao

"Whatever you bring from home. Seriously. You can bring in any outside food you want, but inside it’s mostly overpriced generic or fast food. A few specialty stalls have crept in now that the Jays own the place, but there’s no signature fare. The Tex-Mex station was an unexpected treat, but seems to have vanished suddenly a couple of weeks ago. The Asian Noodle Boxes are surprisingly fresh and edible — but still about the same price as a three course meal in Chinatown.

"One huge disappointment is that once you wind up/are forced up the ramps onto the 500 levels, the selection of food and beer disappears. Don’t bother pleading with the security guard that you only want to get back down to where the good seats are for a kosher dog, they’ve heard it before from your kind. But don’t worry ... if you walk around to behind the left-field foul pole (gate 14 is always left unattended), you can walk back down to whatever level has what you’re looking for." — J.H.

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Where to sit

"The 200 or club level offer the best views of the field, but are much harder to steal than actual field level seats. The 500 level (upper deck) is about a $5 cab ride from the home plate, and the endless trek up and down the ramp may require a sherpa." — LtB

"I honestly find that the 500 and outfield 200 levels feel a bit far from the action. The ticket prices are pretty reasonable and the view great from the third base side, so I normally try for there. The Two for Tuesday games, though (where all the 500 level seats and a lot of the 200 level outfield seats are $2) are too good a deal to pass up." — Hugo

"If you're going to the 'Dome for a one-time thing, try and find somewhere to sit where you can check out the retractable dome, and pray it starts raining during the middle of the game. That way, you get to see 'where history was made' live in action." — M.R.

"If you can, see if you can visit on a "Toonie Tuesday" where over half the seats in the park are only two bucks. If that deal isn't on, either sit in the 500 level right behind home plate to save some money, or sit in the 200 level in the outfield, about section 241-243. Seats there go for under $20 and you're very likely to see a home run come your way." — J.M.

"The 500 level right behind the plate offers a pretty good perspective- it is very easy to shell out a lot more money and have considerably worse seats on the 200 level, stuck under the overhang or way up the line. If you’re planning on going to more than a few games, the Toronto Star season pass is probably the best deal ever — every home game for just over a dollar a game!" — J.H.

Misc.

"Probably the most appealing reason to come to a game from out of town is that you can cover yourself in your home team's swag from head to toe and not hear more than some good-natured ribbing on the way to your seats- Canadian fans really are polite to a fault. And with the Jays management aggressively marketing tickets to nearly U.S. markets, on some nights the home crowd is outnumbered by the visitors." — J.H.

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"And as much as I'm an Indians' fan, one great thing about the Skydome is that it's in the T-dot baby! Best. City. Ever." — M.R.

"All in all, the Rogers Centre is actually pretty wide open, not really many bad seats because the stadium is never full and the fans are typically really passionate about baseball. There's nothing super special about it all, but it's a good time to be had." — J.M.

"The thing about the Rogers Centre is that people have quickly forgotten what a revolutionary park it was. And in truth, it remains remarkably clean and comfortable, and when the roof is open, it is a beautiful place to watch a game. The current ownership regime has done their best to improve the place aesthetically, including replacing the old pool table felt field with FieldTurf, covering the exposed concrete, and adding lots of auxiliary scoreboards. It's never going to be retro chic, but it's our ballpark and we're happy any time we're there to see a game." — Tao

"I can't imagine a better town to spend a weekend, including my native New York. Toronto is vibrant and alive and is a blast! It is safe, ethnically as diverse as one could imagine, and has great food, culture and nightlife." — Hugo

Have an insider's tip for Skydome/Rogers Centre that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and home town to 'Duk at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com for possible inclusion in the post.

Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review will run all summer and feature all 30 MLB ballparks. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Ballpark (Send your tips!)

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