The Toronto Blue Jays have flown down south for nearly two seasons. Finally, they are ready to return home.
Following reviews from public health officials of the Canadian government, a National Interest Exemption has been approved that will permit the Blue Jays to return home and play games at the Rogers Centre.
Toronto have not played at home since September of 2019, hosting home games in Buffalo, Dunedin and over stadiums across two seasons.
Throughout the 2021 season, Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro discussed a potential return to Canada, stating that the biggest hurdle was the border closure between Canada and the U.S. During the MLB All-Star break, the team released a proposal made to the government to return for July 30.
The National Interest Exemption means players are allowed to cross the border without being subject to Canada’s COVID-19 travel restrictions. The plan includes pre and post-arrival testing of everyone crossing the border and additional testing four times a week for unvaccinated individuals.
Both the Blue Jays and visiting teams will have a designated compliance officer who will monitor for potential breaches of the approved plan.
“Anyone who breaches these stringent conditions will have their exemptions revoked and may also be subject to fines or prosecution under the Quarantine Act,” the statement said.
Toronto is set to host the Kansas City Royals on July 30, apart of a three-game homestand. The Blue Jays last played at Rogers Centre in September 2019, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 8-3.
Team officials have said that preparations for the return home have already begun, which includes ticket sales. The National Hockey League was the first league to receive exemption status for the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It’s unclear how many fans will be allowed in attendance for the Blue Jays’ return. In the United States, every MLB team has been allowed to have fans at full capacity. The Blue Jays were the only MLB team not playing in their home stadium.
As for attendance, that decision will come from public health officials from the province of Ontario. Looking at how the province of Quebec handled the Stanley Cup finals, Montreal were allowed to host 3500 fans but were denied a request to have 10,500 fans in attendance.
The capacity for Rogers Centre is just over 50-thousand. The facility allows for spacious seating and could allow for appropriate social distancing throughout the ballpark.
Under Step 3 of the Ontario government’s reopening plan, up to 15,000 or 75 per cent of the usual seating capacity are allowed at outdoor sports facilities.
Toronto is currently in Buffalo playing in their last homestand at Sahlen Field against the Texas Rangers. Saturday’s contest was rained out but will be made up on Sunday, apart of a double-header. The Blue Jays dropped Texas, 10-2, on Friday night.