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NHL postpones Winter Classic, All-Star Game – TSN

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The NHL has announced the postponement of the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Game. The annual outdoor game was scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field in Minnesota. The All-Star Game was scheduled for Jan. 30 in Sunrise, FL.

The postponements were expected as the dates were scheduled prior to beginning of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL concluded the 2020 playoffs in September — over three months later than originally scheduled — as part of the league’s negotiated Return To Play format. The regular season concluded on Mar. 11, after the league was forced to its season on pause due to the pandemic.

“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President & Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer. “Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended. We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

Both events will be rescheduled, according to the league.

The NHL also announced that the postponement of the events doesn’t change their target date of Jan. 1 to begin the 2020-21 season. 

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The Blue Jays might get a brand new ballpark to replace the Rogers Centre down the road. Fans can dream a little – Toronto Star

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Reports of a plan to tear down the Rogers Centre have Blue Jays fans dreaming of a more intimate, scenic, well-stocked ballpark in its place.

But the owners of the 31-year-old stadium say an overhaul of any kind will have to wait.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were exploring options for the stadium but through this year our primary focus has been keeping our customers connected and keeping our employees safe, so there is no update on the Rogers Centre to share at this time,” Rogers spokesperson Andrew Garas said Friday.

The statement came after the Globe and Mail reported Rogers and real estate giant Brookfield Asset Management Inc. were looking to knock down the stadium as part of a larger development project.

Citing unnamed sources, the Globe reported that two companies would build a new stadium half the size on the southern part of the current site and use the remaining land for residential towers, office buildings, stores and public space. Building a new stadium on the lakefront if the initial plan falls through is also an option, the report said. Brookfield declined to comment on the matter.

Rogers owns the stadium but not the land it sits on, which is leased from the Canada Lands Company through 2088 and zoned for stadium use only, Sportsnet reported in 2018.

The City of Toronto said a formal planning application has not been submitted to redevelop the Rogers Centre, while a spokesperson for Mayor John Tory said neither he nor his office staff are involved in any discussions on the subject. Tory told city council and staff last year that he would not take part in any talks about the stadium’s future because he remains on the Rogers family trust after a previous role as a chief executive with the company.

Lobbying records show the most recent registered activity regarding the Rogers Centre came in the form of a meeting with councillor Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York where the stadium is located, in July 2019 and an October 2019 meeting with Cressy’s staff.

Cressy told the Star last August that he accepted an invitation in July to meet with officials from the Blue Jays, Rogers and Brookfield to chat “in broad terms” about their plans for the domed ballpark.

At the time, Cressy said having a redeveloped stadium on the existing lands would be an important anchor for downtown and the city as a whole, and that any refurbishment must be done with private money. The group Cressy met with didn’t have a proposal to share at the time, he said.

Cressy has not heard anything further since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If there is any ambition for a broader land revitalization, we need to work to together to ensure it adheres to good planning principles and a good public process,” he said in a statement Friday.

If and when Rogers, Brookfield and the Jays are ready to restart the discussions, Cressy said, he will ensure there is a “clear understanding that public dollars are not to be used to pay for a revitalized stadium.”

Rogers said Friday that any redevelopment project would be funded privately.

Downtown Toronto city councillor Mike Layton said he does not know details of the reported plan, but agreed that no more public money should go into the site or a new stadium.

“We’ve paid enough,” Layton (Ward 11 University-Rosedale) said in an interview Friday.

Then-Metro Council and the Ontario government were originally on the hook for a combined $60 million of the initial $225-million price tag, but ended up paying a total of $350 million after the stadium’s cost ballooned to almost $600 million.

The stadium is not in his ward, but Layton sits on the Toronto-East York community council likely to receive any redevelopment proposal before it goes to full city council.

“We paid a lot of money to build that (SkyDome) and then it was sold for $25 million. I don’t know the proposal, so I wouldn’t endeavour to give a hard ‘No’ now on whatever they want to do with the site,” he said, “but I hope we don’t see any more tax dollars going for a stadium that should be going for transit, affordable housing and parks for residents — not just a handful of major leaguers.”

Layton, who has led council’s response to climate change, also questioned any plan to demolish the current stadium, saying a tenet of carbon reduction is reusing existing infrastructure rather destroying, dumping and building anew.

Longtime sports industry executive Richard Peddie, president of the Rogers Centre between 1989 and 1994, said the idea of building a new stadium on the existing parcel of land simply isn’t practical.

“There’s no way you could do it on the same site, because it would mean the team needing to play somewhere else for three or four years. You’d need to keep this open while you built somewhere else,” said Peddie. “… There’s got to be natural grass. It should be an open air stadium which you can cover up, rather than a domed stadium where you can roll the roof back. It should be smaller. And wearing my progressive hat, there shouldn’t be money from any level of government going towards this.”

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The Rogers Centre landed at No. 27 out of 30 in Ballpark Digest’s ranking of MLB stadiums this past July. Changes to the stadium no longer falls under Jays president Mark Shapiro’s purview, with Rogers now leading the file, but he told the Star in February, before the pandemic hit, that there may be more upgrades to announce in 2021.

“A lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of focus from people — both within our ownership and even a couple of people within our building — continue to be spent exploring the next steps for a much bigger plan,” he said. “It is incredibly complex, and I think that’ll be clear once it’s announced, and so that’s why it’s taken so long.”

With files from Gregor Chisholm, Tess Kalinowski, Josh Rubin and The Canadian Press

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Stadium reno or replacement logical next step in Blue Jays' evolution as franchise – TSN

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TORONTO — When Mark Shapiro talks of building a sustainable winner, most of us think about the team on the field and a roster filled with in-their-prime players competing for AL East titles on a year-in, year-out basis.

But there’s much more to the Shapiro regime’s philosophy of sustainability, and the key project all along for the 53-year-old executive has been the venue his Blue Jays call home.

While Shapiro’s Blue Jays legacy will ultimately have a lot to do with how the baseball team performs on the field, he could have a hand in changing the Toronto skyline if the club’s vision for a new — or immensely improved — stadium comes to fruition.

A Rogers Centre renovation project has been talked about on and off since Shapiro arrived in 2015.

There have been batting-cage whispers ranging from large-scale renovations — think blowing up half the building and redoing most of it — to brand new lakefront plots of land to extensive cosmetic and fan-friendly changes to the existing bones of what was formerly known as SkyDome.

Publicly, Shapiro has hinted at both when asked and he has not been shy about the need for stadium upgrades, despite declining to go into specifics of what those could ultimately look like.

After a quiet period of more than a year as the team focused on renovating its Dunedin complex and other smaller-scale restructuring, a Globe and Mail report Friday says a plan in conjunction with Brookfield Asset Management Inc. to demolish Rogers Centre as part of a privately funded multibillion-dollar redevelopment has been talked about.

According to the Globe’s Andrew Willis, citing anonymous sources, the plan would see a stadium project sit at the south end of the current site, with residential towers, office buildings, stores and public space to the north.

If plans fall through, a contingency includes building a new stadium on a different plot of lakefront land.

The project to demolish Rogers Centre and build a new stadium would have a five-to-eight-year timeline, according to the Globe, and still needs “numerous” government approvals to move forward.

In other words, it’s still in the idea stage and there may be more whispers to come as public discussion begins and the Jays continue to work through their options.

There’s no questioning where Shapiro’s work is focused these days, however, as the Jays, despite the prime downtown location, have one of the worst stadium situations in Major League Baseball at 31-year-old Rogers Centre.

On the field, the Jays are in good shape, both talent-wise and in terms of the payroll, with all of the club’s bad contracts — even Troy Tulowitzki — off the books.

The club also just completed a multi-million dollar renovation to its Dunedin player development facility and spring training stadium, leaving the ballpark at home in Toronto as the next major item on Shapiro’s checklist.

Even if the timeline of when the Jays are supposed to be a contender (pretty much now) and when a new stadium would be ready (at least a half-decade from now) doesn’t necessarily match up, it’s the clear next step in the franchise’s evolution.

Potentially in the city’s skyline, too.

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Report: Lamar Jackson tests positive; Ravens closing facility until Monday – theScore

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has tested positive for COVID-19, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports.

The Ravens are closing their team facility until Monday at the earliest, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, is the latest in a long line of Ravens players affected by the virus, and the reported developments throw the status of Sunday’s game against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers into doubt. Should the game proceed as scheduled, backup quarterback Robert Griffin III would likely start for Baltimore.

The matchup between the AFC North rivals was supposed to cap off the NFL’s Thanksgiving tripleheader. Instead, the league announced Wednesday the game would be moved to Sunday.

Baltimore already has 10 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and it appears Jackson could soon join them. The team first placed third-string quarterback Trace McSorley and defensive back Iman Marshall on the reserve list last Friday before Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.

The Ravens then placed running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins and defensive tackle Brandon Williams on the reserve list Monday while announcing that multiple members of the organization had tested positive for COVID-19. Linebacker Pernell McPhee joined them Tuesday, while defensive end Calais Campbell and offensive linemen Matt Skura and Patrick Mekari hit the list Wednesday. Baltimore placed defensive end Jihad Ward on the list Thursday morning.

Baltimore disciplined a staff member Wednesday for reportedly failing to report his COVID-19 symptoms and failing to consistently wear a mask or tracking device inside the team facility.

Head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders was the staff member in question, sources told Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. The team has reportedly suspended Saunders.

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