Don't get me wrong, Rogers has done a pretty decent job of improving the Rogers Centre baseball experience since they purchased the stadium four years ago. But take it from a relative local; there are still lots of complaints about the stadium and even the odd unrealistic call from fans for a new stadium. This simply will not happen for quite some time. So that leaves the only option being how to improve it.
The main way I would improve the Dome would be to replace all the seats. I would look into brand new seats that were wider than the existing seats (I don't even care if they all have padding or not, just make them wider). The seats are my No. 1 complaint from every game I have ever been to at the Dome; they honestly feel like they are six inches wide. What are we, sardines?
All it really takes is some guy beside you that is a reasonable 220 and all of a sudden you feel like you accidentally landed yourself on a charter flight with the Japanese sumo team and you're in economy (and not with the coaches). Trust me, you don't even want to know what it's like if you lose the ticket "lottery" and end up beside a guy weighing 300-plus. (I've honestly gone and sat in open seats that were in a worse area to get some semblance of comfort).
Bottom line, the seats are nowhere near wide enough right now, not even close. Of course I am overstating a bit, but anyone who has been there live knows what I am talking about. Even my girlfriend, who is not a baseball fan but actually enjoys being there live, wonders whether the seats were designed for Oompa Loompas.
This would actually solve one of the other big problems with the dome; not enough people go and the place looks empty. Let's do a little quick match. Current baseball capacity is around 50,000 at Rogers Centre, so if the current seats are 15 inches wide (just a guess) and you increase them to 18 inches wide that is 20 percent increase in seat space. Those three extra inches can make a huge difference in seating comfort (Just ask anyone who has sat in both a Pinto and a Cadillac).
Increasing the seat size by 20 percent would then decrease your overall capacity by 20 percent; meaning your new baseball capacity would be around 40,000. Now, if this were the early '90s, that's nowhere near enough seats. But when was the last time the Jays drew 40,000-plus on a regular basis? Probably 1995.
Also, look at the capacities of any of the new ballparks being built; Citi Field (Mets) has 41,000 seats and Target Field (Twins) has 40,000 seats. Or look at existing parks that were built recently, like PNC Park (Pirates), which has 38,500 and Nationals Park (Nationals), which has 41,000. So basically any team that is not the Yankees is pretty much shooting for somewhere in the 40,000 range. All of a sudden if you get crowds in the 30,000 range, (which is around the yearly average in recently), you are looking at having the place 75 percent full instead of 60 percent.
That makes a pretty substantial optical difference. Also, if the Jays ever were able to get Toronto baseball-crazy and selling out again, you would have supply and demand forces at work enabling you to increase prices substantially.
I would love this, and would honestly make an effort to go to a lot more games live (not to mention it would be an easier sell to the girlfriend). I would gladly pay a couple extra bucks per ticket for these new seats (of course while I was at it, I'd also put cup holders on ever seat, but I don't want to get too greedy here).
Basically you have to improve your in-person game experience for the average baseball fan if you want to increase attendance. I am by no means an average fan, but this still affects my decision making process. I can't imagine what it must do to someone who is on the fence.
Today, with big screen HDTVs (which didn't exist in the early '90s) and that comfy sofa calling your name, why would anyone ever leave the comforts of home to be stuffed into some seat that is barely wider than your ass, only to take a chance that you might get seated next to Shamu at feeding time? This is a no-brainer to me; I think this is the one change they could make that would have the single biggest positive influence on my happiness and opinion of the live baseball experience at Rogers Centre.
What do you think as a Blue Jays fan who has attended a game at Rogers Centre? Do you agree with me? Disagree? What improvements would you make? I'd love to read everyone's take on how to improve the game day experience. Please comment below.