When you think of Toronto, a few landmarks come to mind; the CN Tower, Casa Loma, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the Royal Ontario Museum, to name a few. Those and more buildings and area’s are synonymous with the city, and very few more so than the Rogers Centre.
The Rogers Centre is home to the Toronto Blue Jays, but it also hosts concerts from Foo Fighters to Shawn Mendes, as well as having hosted WrestleMania VI and X8 – those last two are particularly notable as the only location outside of the United States that WrestleMania has ever been held. So, suffice to say, the Rogers Centre is an iconic part of the Toronto skyline. However, did you know that the Rogers Centre used to be called the Sky Dome? And did you know that it wasn’t meant to be in Toronto at all?
As Toronto – and Canada in general – grew and grew throughout the 1900’s, the need for a sports stadium cropped up some time in the late 1950’s. A proposal was put forth for a stadium that sat on Lake Ontario, not too dissimilar to the current Budweiser Stage near Exhibition. The plan was scrapped but the call for an arena of some kind did not dissipate. In fact, plans were put forth again the mid 1960’s, and the early 1970’s, but nothing came to fruition.
That all changed in 1983, when Ontario Premier Bill Davis turned to the public for idea’s. The Premier opened a competition for the public of the Greater Toronto Area to design a stadium, including proposals for the destination. Bearing in mind, the GTA was a lot less built-up than it is today and there was plenty of open space for some big projects. Of the thirteen bids that were submitted, the Premier and cohorts chose the Sky Dome design that was pitched to be built in Mississauga.
The pictures above show model photographs of how the Sky Dome in Mississauga would have looked; obviously earning it’s name from the retractable ceiling that evokes the shape of a children’s star. Mississauga Mayor, Hazel McCallion, tasked Harold Shipp with bringing the project to life.
Shipp chose a building site around Highway 401 and Hurontario, and the design would have completely transformed the area. The 65,000 seat stadium would have also boasted hotels, condos, office buildings, a convention centre, restaurants, theatres, recreation facilities, and an 18,000 capacity parking lot. Incredibly, even back then there was talk of a Hurontario Light Rail Train that would have stopped right underneath the Sky Dome!
And best of all, the Sky Dome wouldn’t have cost the people of Mississauga anything in taxes or public funds, as it would have been wholly funded by commercial and residential developments in the area would have paid for it.
Of course, this proposed project never saw the light of day. For a variety of reasons, the bid was taken from Mississauga and moved to downtown Toronto. The Sky Dome was built in 1989, and eventually renamed the Rogers Centre, and sits as we know it today.
How would Mississauga history have been altered, had it been the home to the Blue Jays? Would it also be the choice destination of massive music artists and sporting events? Would Mississauga be a bigger city than it currently is? Or would the Blue Jays relocated to Toronto later down the line, and the stadium repurposed for local events? These are the questions we have as we look back at one of the more unique almost-was events in Mississauga’s storied history.