Goodbye SkyDome, hello Rogers Centre

Rogers Communications on Wednesday announced significant changes to Toronto's SkyDome

Called everything from the Eighth Wonder of the World to the Concrete Convertible, Toronto's SkyDome underwent an official name change on Wednesday.

Rogers Centre will now be home to baseball's Blue Jays and the Canadian Football League's Argonauts.

To complete the makeover, the 16-year-old facility will have a new scoreboard to replace the once-popular JumboTron and a softer playing surface designed by Montreal-based FieldTurf Inc.

Blue Jays president and chief executive officer Paul Godfrey confirmed the changes will be made prior to the Jays' home opener on April 8 against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

"This is not a quick fix. We have a lot of work ahead of us," Godfrey said at a news conference. "We're investigating any and all ideas that will improve the building and fan experience."

In conjunction with the stadium improvements, team owner Ted Rogers announced a three-year player payroll of $210 million US starting this season.

The average of $70 million is a 40 per cent jump from the Blue Jays' 2004 payroll of about $52 million.

"Some of your ammunition needs to be spent on content," Rogers said. "Rogers [Communications] is used to a top, competitive position and this will enhance the Blue Jays' competitive position."

Asked why he didn't increase the budget earlier in the winter to allow the American League club to compete for high-profile free agents, Rogers said it wouldn't have been practical financially with the uncertainty surrounding the final sale of the stadium.

Rogers announced the $25 million US purchase of SkyDome from Sportsco International at a November news conference.

"We have the resources to move forward [with personnel moves] to play in the toughest division in baseball and put a consistent winner on the field," said Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

As for the new video system, there will be seven display screens – five with integrated colour – instead of one main board like the JumboTron. However, the new-look scoreboard will remain the same size as its predecessor at 33 feet high and 110 feet wide.

Another board measuring 10 feet by 65 feet will extend along the outfield wall, while the facing of the 300 level – between the upper and lower decks – will sport a pair of four-foot high, 431-foot long boards.

The only resemblance the new synthetic FieldTurf will have to the rock-hard AstroTurf is the dirt cut-outs around each base.

Godfrey said the team preferred this design to an all-dirt infield to maximize the efficiency of the FieldTurf as a multi-purpose system.

"The [main scoreboard] will offer improved viewing angles ... and improved brightness," Godfrey said, adding two monochrome boards on either side will provide a more detailed look at out-of-town games.

"We will make other significant changes, so it's more baseball-friendly. We're in discussions with architects on how to soften the look of the building and reduce the concrete appearance of the exterior."