BUFFALO, N.Y. [WKBW] — For the second consecutive summer, Buffalo is welcoming back the Toronto Blue Jays to Sahlen Field. This time, things are very different. Unlike last year, fans will be in the stands of Sahlen Field, rooting on Buffalo’s adopted baseball team.
"Last year was great, historically it was fantastic, but this year is something different," John Boutet, curator for the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame said. "Buffalonians get to experience Major League Baseball, in our own city, for the first time in a long, long time, so it's very special."
On Tuesday, June 1, when the Blue Jays play their first game in Buffalo this season, they'll allow 35-percent capacity at the ballpark. Starting on June 15 against the New York Yankees, capacity will rise to 45-percent. But regardless of how many fans are in attendance, this moment is a long time coming for many baseball lovers in Western New York.
“It’s almost like a surreal dream come true because we lived,” author of “ Season of Buffalo Baseball” Mike Billoni said.
Billoni served as the general manager of the Bisons when Pilot Field was opened in 1988. For several years, the team tried landing a full-time MLB team, and came really close.
“Buffalo was a lot closer to getting Major League Baseball than a lot of people actually know,” Boutet said.
But could Buffalo ever support a Major League Baseball team full-time?
“The revenue model has to change, that's what ultimately unfortunately drove the decision back in the late 80s, early 90s, to not bring Major League Baseball to Western New York,” UB professor of advancement in sports Nellie Drew said. “While I was heartbroken at the time, as a dollars and cents proposition, it made all kinds of sense.”
There are a lot of factors that make it a long shot for Buffalo to land an MLB team. Sahlen Field, for example, only seats 16,600 people. The average MLB park seats more than 42,000. As far as population is concerned, Buffalo’s population in the metro area is approximately 1.1 million people. For comparison, cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh are closer to 1.7 million people.
“Cleveland and Pittsburgh are still having troubles with their teams financially,” Buffalo State College Economics chair Fred Floss said. “So whether or not that makes us a good place or good investment for MLB to come in, whether Cleveland or Pittsburgh would have teams now if they had to get a new team, the answer is probably not.”
That doesn’t mean the Blue Jays won’t have a positive impact on the area. Along with millions spent in renovations to the ballpark, the city should also see a financial boost. Floss said this will be a big help for the businesses around the ballpark.
So regardless of how long the Blue Jays are in town, this is great for the City of Buffalo.
“It’s a long time coming, for those of us who love and enjoy baseball, it is truly a dream come true,” Drew added.
“I mean, it's been how many years since this has happened before? 105, 106 years,” Boutet said. “Take it all in, try to get a ticket, try to get to a game, this may not happen again in your lifetime.”