Sahlen Field transformed for home opener

August 10th, 2020

Sahlen Field has undergone a complete makeover just in time for the most unique “home” opener in Blue Jays history.

The Blue Jays envisioned this large project as a “reimagining” of the physical space at Sahlen Field, and now, the fans know just what that looks like. From aerial views to a look inside the tunnels and clubhouses, there’s no doubt who will be calling this stadium home.

While additions were needed to bring the stadium up to current Major League standards, both from competitive and health standpoints, the Blue Jays’ staff in Buffalo, N.Y., focused on recreating the feeling of a home park.

“One of the objectives we definitely got from [general manager] Ross [Atkins] and [manager] Charlie [Montoyo] was to make this feel as close to home as it can,” said Marnie Starkman, the club’s senior vice president of marketing and business operations. “It’s not going to look like home exactly, but anything you can do to make it look like home.”

This goes down to the small touches, like Montoyo’s office coming outfitted with family pictures and his instruments, so the pregame concerts on his congas will go uninterrupted. Areas throughout the stadium are now covered in Blue Jays logos and colors, and the team in Buffalo is adding some more touches prior to first pitch, like the numbers of Roberto Alomar, Roy Halladay and Jackie Robinson. The No. 1 of the late Tony Fernandez will also be added to the outfield wall.

On a larger scale, the Blue Jays brought down four moving trucks of equipment from Rogers Centre, mainly for the training areas and clubhouses. Those areas will take up the majority of the space underneath the bleachers for the Blue Jays to allow for physical distancing, while visiting clubs will use the new infrastructure that’s been set up to house their facilities.

The Blue Jays worked with Major League Baseball throughout this process, combining their own advance plans with assistance from the league. The Blue Jays worked through five different sets of plans in this process, including Toronto; Dunedin, Fla.; Pittsburgh; and Baltimore before eventually landing in Buffalo.

Along with extensive use of the bleacher and concourse areas, the Blue Jays also upgraded the lighting at Sahlen Field, which has long been one of the top priorities. The current lighting needed to be brought up to MLB standards and improved for broadcast purposes, so new bulbs were installed and two temporary lighting trucks will be used for games.

This isn’t something professional sports organizations do regularly, so the plans developed along the way. One addition outside of the initial plans was a new infield.

“As much as we had plans and drawings, there’s a ton of things that come up as you do this. The grass was a choice,” Starkman said. “It wouldn’t have been that we wouldn’t play with the grass, I think it was just the right decision when we had the extra time.”

The Blue Jays chose to do this due to the lip between the infield grass and dirt. The work extends beyond home plate and approximately 20 feet into the outfield grass.

Some of Toronto’s coaching staff got its first look at the stadium late Sunday, while the players are expected to walk through the facilities on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s opener at 6:37 p.m. ET against the Marlins.