TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays agreed to buy SkyDome, the
team's ballpark, for about $21.2 million.
The 50,000-seat stadium, which opened in 1989, cost about $375
million to construct and was mostly funded by taxpayers. The Blue
Jays, who are owned by Rogers Communications, will acquire the
ballpark from Sportsco International LP, a Chicago-based group of
investors who bought SkyDome out of bankruptcy court in 1999 for
about $74 million.
"We're getting it for a very fair price," said Blue Jays
president Paul Godfrey, a former city politician who was
instrumental in getting the building funded by taxpayers.
The sale, which was announced Monday, is expected to close in
December. The team plans to replace the artificial turf with
FieldTurf and install a new JumboTron scoreboard.
Godfrey said the Blue Jays are looking into selling naming
rights to the building. The Blue Jays were the only team in the
major leagues that did not either own or control its own facility.
"That was a major handicap," Godfrey said. "Now everything
from parking and concessions to buying tickets to the building
itself will all be in the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays."
But Godfrey says the purchase doesn't mean the team will
increase its payroll next season. The Blue Jays are expected to
lose slugger Carlos Delgado to free agency.
Godfrey spoke to Delgado's agent, David Sloane, last week, but
said they haven't received a counteroffer.
"He said he'll get back to me," Godfrey said.
The team isn't expected to offer salary arbitration to Delgado,
who earned $18.5 million last season, which means that if he
doesn't agree to a deal with the Blue Jays by Dec. 7, he can't
re-sign with Toronto until May 1.
SkyDome will lose one of its major tenants in 2006. The Canadian
Football League's Toronto Argonauts plan to move from SkyDome,
which has a retractable roof, to a new 25,000-seat outdoor stadium.