Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Happy Birthday to “The Dome”

Canada’s largest city has many internationally recognized landmarks – the most famous is the CNTower. The CNTower was the world’s tallest free standing structure when it was built, and has come to symbolize Toronto, and Canada.

But one of the other big landmarks – located almost right next to that famous tower – is celebrating it’s birthday today.

Home to the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club and the Toronto Argonauts football franchise, “the Dome” turns 20 this week.

These days, thanks in large part due to corporate take-overs, the world’s first retractable roof sports stadium is now known as “The Rogers Centre” because it was purchased by Ted Rogers, of Rogers Cable and Rogers Broadcasting fame.

Back in the day, when it opened some 20-years ago, it was often just referred to as “the Dome.” The official name back then, was SkyDome, which was a very fitting name for the place, as the rounded dome-shaped roof would split open, revealing the bright blue sky outside.

I remember they held a contest to name the building just prior to its opening. The prize was a lifetime subscription to all sports functions. I wonder if those lucky people who won still get in free, since the name change in honour of the new owners?

To die hard fans, the sports stadium will always be “the Dome.” I still call it that in casual conversation. “The Jays are playing at the Dome tonight,” I’ll say when talking about my favourite sports team.

SkyDome, the world’s greatest entertainment centre – that was the slogan used in all promotional materials back when the Dome wasn’t the Rogers Centre. And it was – and maybe still is – one of the greatest entertainment venues in the world.
Where else can you go to watch a major league baseball game under the stars, without getting wet when the rain starts to fall?

The Dome has some fancy restaurants and even a hotel built into it. I remember when the thing first opened 20-years ago, and everyone was talking about how luxurious and expensive the hotel was, especially the rooms with a view of the playing field. Imagine waking up and turning to the window to see how the Argos were doing?

Many other functions have been held over the years at The Dome. From the Autoshow, to food shows, to the Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask show and more.

The SkyDome replaced the aging Exhibition Stadium where the Jays and the Argos played previously. In many ways I miss the old Ex. Sure, the seats weren’t all that comfy, and the food was limited to hot dog vendors, bags of peanuts, and luke-warm soft drinks. But the Ex had character – it was a traditional ballpark.

Enter the SkyDome in the 1980’s and it had a modern high-tech ambiance. The world’s first Jumbotron lit up at the Dome, the seats were more cozy, and the food choices ranged from pizza, hot dogs and pop, to gourmet appetizers served in the SkyBoxes.

Ah, the SkyBoxes, here lies the real tragedy of the SkyDome, the Dome, The Rogers Centre – whatever you want to call it.

Back in the day of old Exhibition Stadium, you could get a decent seat to a major sports match, a hot dog, a drink and even a souvenir all for under $40. A father – as my dad did – could bring his kids down for a day at the game, without having to take out a second mortgage.

Although the Dome ushered in a new era of high-tech amenities, it made going out for a day at the ballpark a high-end thing to do – something only the rich could afford. You can still get cheap seats at the Dome, and recently they have started selling recession-buster ticket packages that include a drink and a dog, but that’s only because as with all businesses these days, the recession is hitting everyone hard.

Before the economy tanked, and for much of the 20-years the Dome has been around, only the well-to-do could afford to go. Ticket prices kept going up, as did the cost of food, drinks, even ball caps.

Granted, the cost of living has increased, so what a dollar bought 20-years ago isn’t the same as what it buys these days. But the prices skyrocketed well past the rates of inflation, to enlarge the wallets of the fat cats owning and operating the ballpark, and in a way killing off a solid, dedicated customer-base.

And the ironic thing, despite the economic depression we are in, many are talking about how the Dome is too old, and needs to be replaced!

These morons are money-hungry developer-backed, that want nothing more than something big to make money off of. And no doubt, by building a new stadium, they’d include all the latest high-tech wonders of today, which would again drive up the cost to attend functions at the venue and drive away fans.

The Dome doesn’t need to be replaced, just keep prices low past this economic downturn, so that parents can take their kids out to the ballgame – and you’ll do fine.

Happy Birthday to the Dome – and hopefully many more!

No comments:

Post a Comment