Tomorrow night, the Rogers Centre plays host to 55,000 fans for UFC 129, headlined by UFC welterweight champion and Canadian superstar Georges St. Pierre and challenger Jake Shields. The event marks the highest attendance figure in the UFC's history, more than doubling 21,451 that showed up to watch Anderson Silva toy with Thales Leites at the Bell Centre in Montreal for UFC 97.
The building officially opened (as the SkyDome) on June 3, 1989, greatly overbudget and two months behind schedule. A pet project for then-Ontario Premier Bill Davis, the building slipped into financial mismanagement before opening. A review by new Premier Bob Rae in October 1990 revealed that the building would have to be booked 600 days a year to turn a profit.
By 1993, a $165 million debt had ballooned to $400 million. The government paid off the outstanding debts, and then sold the building for the paltry sum of $151 million. In November of 1998, the stadium filed for bankruptcy protection.
In 2004, Rogers Communications, owners of the Toronto Blue Jays, purchased the SkyDome for a mere $25 million. The building was renamed the Rogers Centre the following year.
A look at the top ten moments in Rogers Centre history after the jump.The Skydome Opens for Business - June 3, 1989
From the Rogers Centre Wikipedia page:
The stadium officially opened on June 3, 1989 and hosted an official grand opening show: "The Opening of SkyDome: A Celebration". ... The roof was opened by the Premier of the Province, David Peterson, who pointed a laser pen at the ceiling to officially 'open' it. The roof opened, exposing the crowd to a downpour of rain. This while a crowd of famous Canadians sang a song on stage that was written specifically for the opening, with the lyrics: "Open up, Open up the Dome". Yet as the crowd got increasingly wet, they could be heard chanting "Close the roof". But Stadco president Chuck Magwood insisted that the roof fully open. And once open, a group of civilian skydivers flew into the now soaked stadium often skidding across the concrete floor to the cheers of the audience. By the time the roof had opened, most of the crowd had sought refuge in the concourse areas and beneath the overhangs of the various parts of the structure.
WrestleMania VI Comes to Town - April 1, 1990
An event known by every wrestling nerd who grew up in the 1980s. This was the WWF's second stadium megashow, featuring an epic main event between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Heavyweight Championship. The WWF announced an attendance of 67,678, setting the SkyDome paid attendance record.
Dave Stewart Tosses a No-Hitter - June 29, 1990
From the San Francisco Gate:
On June 29, 1990, Stewart walked the first two batters, retired the next 26, then walked Junior Felix with two outs in the ninth.
When Tony Fernandez flied to center for the final out, Stewart's teammates went berserk on the field at SkyDome. But Stewart was ready to collapse.
"He's younger than I was," said Stewart, who was 33 when he threw his no-hitter; Braden is 26. "I was physically and mentally drained. Pitching a game like that, I was worn down for several days until my next start."
Stewart shared his day with Fernando Valenzuela, who also threw a no-hitter, beating the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. In Stewart's, the only tough defensive play was first baseman Mark McGwire's in the fourth inning. He dashed to his right, dropped to his knees and backhanded a grounder by Fernandez, then flipped to Stewart at the bag. Stewart struck out a career-high 12 batters.
Devon White and "The Catch" - October 20, 1992
The Toronto Blue Jays met the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series. Game 3 played host to the first World Series game played outside of the United States. The Blue Jays won the game, but not without some help from centerfielder Devon White.
Joe Carter's Walkoff World Series Winner - October 23, 1993
The Blue Jays returned to the World Series in 1993 as defending champions against the Philadelphia Phillies. With a 3-2 series lead, the Blue Jays entered the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 trailing 6-5. Philadelphia brought in shaky closer Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams. He started off the inning by walking Rickey Henderson. Devon White popped out, followed by a Paul Molitor single which moved Henderson into second base. Williams worked a 2-2 count to RBI machine (and one of the most overrated players in baseball history) Joe Carter before surrendering a home run in the biggest moment in Blue Jay and SkyDome history.
Toronto Raptors Defeat Chicago Bulls - March 24, 1996
Normally, a regular season victory for a 21-61 team wouldn't sniff a greatest moments list. But the '95-'96 Chicago Bulls were not a normal team. In Michael Jordan's first full year since returning from a two-year baseball experiment, the Bulls won a record 72 games before rolling through the playoffs for their fourth of an eventual six NBA titles. One of the Bulls ten regular season losses came to the lowly Raptors in the spacious confines of the SkyDome. (Note Jordan banking the winner just after time expires.)
Bailey vs. Johnson for the Title of "World's Fastest Man" - May 31, 1997
The title of "World's Fastest Man" is typically reserved for the winner of the 100-meter dash. In 1996, that man was Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey. That didn't stop the winner of the 200- and 400-meter dashes, American Michael Johnson, from using the moniker in television promotions. Verbal sparring led to a 150-meter race inside the Skydome. Johnson pulled up lame around the 110-meter mark, leaving Bailey the winner of the title and $1.5 million.
Nelson Mandela Visits the Skydome - September 25, 1998
From CBC News:
There's a lot of excited children at Toronto's Skydome today. And at the center of the excitement is Nelson Mandela. The South African president is the guest of honour at the launch of the Canadian chapter of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.
Thousands of Canadian school children have filled the stadium to pay tribute to the man who championed the end of apartheid.
Last night in Ottawa, Mandela was sworn in as a Companion of the Order of Canada. It's the first time a foreign leader has been honoured in this way. He accepted the award on behalf of all South Africans.
WrestleMania Returns, Sets Attendance Record - March 17, 2002
WrestleMania X8 marked the return of the WWF to the SkyDome. It also marked another paid attendance record with 68,237 entrants. Although officially headlined by a WWF Undisputed Championship match between Chris Jericho and Triple H, it was the Rock and Hulk Hogan who provided the biggest moment of the night.
Carlos Delgado Hits Four Home Runs - September 23, 2003
Thanks to Major League Baseball's arcane new media policy, I don't have video for you here (or of Stewart's no-hitter). Here's Blue Jay Hunter with a retrospective:
Just to reiterate how rare it is to hit 4 home runs in one game, Delgado was only one of five American League players ever to accomplish that feat, and only one of 15 in the majors to do it, and nobody has hit 4 home runs in a game since Delgado did it in 2003.
It's a unprecedented accomplishment that will stand as one of the greatest single game performances by one player in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays. It's just a shame only 13,408 people were privy to see it unfold live at the Rogers Centre.