TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays will get a home-field advantage boost when they return to Rogers Centre next week.
Seating capacity at the downtown stadium will be doubled to 30,000 starting with Tuesday night's series opener against the New York Yankees.
The Blue Jays received approval from the Ontario government for the increase on Friday. Capacity for outdoor seated events in the province will increase to up to 75 per cent capacity or 30,000 people, whichever is less, while indoor sport venues will rise to 50 per cent capacity or 10,000 people, whichever is less.
The Rogers Centre's retractable roof gives the Blue Jays the option of playing indoors when wet or cold weather is an issue. Dr. Kieran Moore, the province's chief medical officer of health, confirmed that the capacity of 30,000 will apply either way.
"We consider it an outdoor stadium even if the roof is closed," Moore said during an afternoon media availability. "We've worked with them to understand their ventilation system and their air exchange. It is actually a very high air exchange turnover.
"We're confident, even with the roof closed, given the amount of air and space that we can continue to consider it an outdoor venue."
The Blue Jays, who will open part of the top deck -- the 500L level -- for the first time this season, could use the energy from a raucous home crowd as they make a push for the post-season.
Toronto will wrap up a road trip this weekend in Minnesota before an off-day Monday. After the critical three-game series against the Yankees, the Blue Jays will close out the regular season with a three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles.
Team president Mark Shapiro has said the stadium's retractable roof would be open as long as the weather allows, and additional measures had been taken to ensure proper ventilation.
The team announced Thursday that they would make additional tickets available for their final homestand.
The Blue Jays were hopeful that government regulations would be loosened for the two series and any post-season home games should the team qualify. The team would have issued refunds to ticket purchasers if capacity was not expanded.
Forced to play south of the border last season and part of this season due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the Blue Jays received clearance to return home in mid-July.
The team played its 2021 Rogers Centre opener on July 30 after receiving a national interest travel exemption from the federal government. The Blue Jays were approved to treat the stadium, which normally has a capacity of about 49,000, as an outdoor venue.
Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination is now required for all fans aged 12 and older entering Rogers Centre. A negative COVID-19 test will no longer be accepted except for individuals with a doctor’s note indicating they can't receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions.
"They've been great partners in having early adoption of the validation of immunization status and/or testing," Moore said. "They're moving to complete immunization certification, which I very much appreciate."
The Blue Jays played last year's condensed schedule at the home field of their triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The team started the 2021 campaign at its spring training home in Dunedin, Fla., before moving back to Buffalo and then finally to Toronto.
Entering play Friday, Toronto was one game behind New York in the race for the second American League wild-card spot. The Yankees were two games behind the Boston Red Sox, who held the first spot.
The AL wild-card game is scheduled for Oct. 5. The winner advances to a best-of-five AL Division Series starting Oct. 7.
The Blue Jays reached the playoffs last season but were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three wild-card series. It was Toronto's first post-season appearance since 2016.
Toronto's last World Series title came in 1993.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2021.
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