Story by Ontario College of Trades
Photos by Kris Caetano
It’s a very exciting time at Rogers Centre in Toronto—the Blue Jays have a new roof over their heads.
Built 27 years ago, Rogers Centre, formerly Skydome, was home to the very first retractable roof in the world. There have been 25 built since.
The roof’s original motor, tracking and control systems were in need of replacement, according to Dave McCormick, certified plumber and manager of engineering for Rogers Centre’s Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club. To find the best new system for Rogers Centre, McCormick travelled to stadiums across the United States to collect research.
The hardest task for McCormick was finding a contractor who could design, install and service a state-of-the-art, modernized system to seamlessly open and close the retractable roof for many more years to come. He found the right crew and expertise in New Electric Enterprises Inc. of Oakville, who started working on the new system about a year ago.
“One of the things in my life that I have zero regrets about is getting into the trades,” says Albert Smouter, New Electric’s foreman, certified electrician in charge of managing the electrical crews at Rogers Centre. “Many days it doesn’t even feel like work,” he says. Last year, Smouter was front and centre, working during the playoffs when the Blue Jays won the American League Division Series.
In photo (left to right) Albert Smouter, New Electric’s foreman, certified electrician in charge of managing the electrical crews at Rogers Centre and Dave McCormick, certified plumber and manager of engineering for Rogers Centre’s Toronto Blue Jays Baseball.
Smouter started growing a beard when the project began—as some superstitious fans do during the playoffs—and vowed that he would shave only when testing was completed on the new system. The new roofing systems began testing in May, the roof is now in full use, and Smouter’s big beard is gone.
McCormick says that the increase in attendance means an increase in day-to-day work. Rogers Centre has three levels of washrooms and 140 suites (like tiny condos with their own HVAC, hot water and toilets) that all need regular maintenance and service after each game and event. The stadium has some 9,000 lightbulbs and 776 field lights that surround it. All of this requires maintenance, but Rogers Centre tradespeople are happy to be behind-the-scenes at the home of the Blue Jays.
“We’ve sold out so many games recently, especially on the weekends. Not that long ago, we were used to having roughly 17,000 people in attendance; now we average 30,000 or sellout crowds of 48,000 every weekend.” Capacity issues have taxed the facilities—it’s greatly increased utility, service and maintenance requirements.
Being a huge baseball fan and working at Rogers Centre has its perks. Smouter takes pride in his work, appreciating the behind-the-scenes access and knowing that the general public doesn’t get to see most of what he does.
“The trades have lots of opportunities and my career has taken me to so many interesting places, Rogers Centre being one of the most exciting,” says Smouter.
Rogers Centre Roof Facts:
• Designed by architect Rod Robbie and structural engineer Michael Allen
• The world’s first fully retractable roof that opens or closes in 25 minutes
• 86 meters (282 feet) high, or the height of a 31 storey building
Did you know?
• The entire Rogers Centre development is 12.7 acres (5.14 hectares)
• There are 143,000 square feet of exhibit space on field level
• Volume inside with roof closed is 56.5 million cubic feet (1.6 million cubic meters)
• The diameter of the building is 700 feet
• The building itself is 11.5 acres (4.66 hectares)
• The ceiling height is 310 feet