TORONTO — A new sensory room and infant-feeding room have been added to Rogers Centre as the Toronto Blue Jays work toward making their ballpark more accessible.
The new rooms are part of the ongoing renovations to the Blue Jays' downtown stadium and are free to use for all fans attending a game.
The sensory room is designed for fans who have Down syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, are autistic or just need a quiet space so they can self-regulate if the sights and sounds of the ballpark become overwhelming.
"They can come here, make their way here, and come on in," said Christine Robertson, the Blue Jays director of fan services, as she stood in the sensory room located in section 212 of Rogers Centre.
"We always have staff at the fan services room. They're here to support and keep an eye out but you don't need to check in, you don't need to make a reservation, you just come as needed."
The sensory room is the first of its kind at any professional sports venue in Canada.
It includes several features designed to help soothe people experiencing dysregulation, including beanbag chairs, a colouring station, bubble walls, textured walls, a Nanoleaf wall that changes colours, and a muted TV so caregivers can still follow what's happening in the Blue Jays game.
Sensory bags are also available to be borrowed at any fan services desk around Rogers Centre. These packs include noise-cancelling earmuffs, fidget toys, and colour-coded cards so that people experiencing dysregulation or are non-verbal can point to the card to express how they're feeling or what they need.
Both the sensory room and the sensory bags were put together in collaboration with KultureCity, a non-profit focused on sensory accessibility and acceptance for those with invisible disabilities.
"Our communities are what shapes our lives and to know that the Blue Jays are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone, no matter their ability, is included in their community is amazing," said Uma Srivastava, KultureCity's executive director.
"We're honoured to partner with Blue Jays to provide a truly inclusive experience for all fans and guests."
An infant-feeding room has also been added to Rogers Centre, near Section 240 across from the Gate 13 elevator. Like the sensory room, it is open to any ticket holder regardless of where they may be sitting in the ballpark.
The infant-feeding room has four rocking chairs with partitions between them for privacy, all of them facing a muted TV that has the game on so that parents don't miss out on any of the action. There are also change tables with diapers and wipes provided as well as bottle warmers and sinks.
"This is really again, a simple thing, that can make a really big difference," said Robertson. "That's what we've heard from fans, is what a difference it makes because now I don't have to wonder should I bring my child to the game? Is it going to be O.K?
"You can be confident it's going to be OK"
Both the sensory room and the infant-feeding room have QR codes posted so fans can make suggestions about how to improve the spaces.
Robertson said that the Blue Jays' accessibility committee is also exploring other additions, including more infant-feeding rooms and multi-faith prayer rooms.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2023.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press