Sky Dome, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It’s legally called The Rogers Centre now, but it is and will always be Sky Dome to me. As much as I love advertising, I can’t stand selling the naming rights to sports arenas. I grew up seeing baseball at Tiger Stadium and the Junior Wings, and once in a while the Red Wings, at Olympia. It just crosses the line when the naming rights are sold to the highest bidder. It’s an old complaint now, name the arenas for something historic to the sport or the city, and let the fans name the building, as was done with The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. If you have to sell the naming of the building to pay the bills, cut the bills someplace. Honestly, players and owners, how many MILLIONS a year do you need to get by when fans can’t even afford to see you more than once a year?
Steps off soap box. So the building where the Toronto Blue Jays play is the Sky Dome. When I say Sky Dome, that’s the place I mean.
I have been to the Sky Dome 4 times. The interesting piece of irony is that the first time I was at the Sky Dome for an event, it wasn’t baseball! In 1990, with a group of friends, including my Mom, I went to the WWF’s WrestleMania VI, the first WrestleMania outside of the United States. I was 24 years old and our group called ourselves The Zoo Ringsiders from Parts Unknown Heights. We went to the World Wrestling Federation local matches every month, usually buying our tickets for the next month at the matches, where they go on sale first. We always had ringside seats and did we heckle? We did more than heckle, we dressed up!
I still had a room full of spandex pieces and patterns that I made or altered for costume designing for my brother’s band. I did the sewing parts, but everyone joined in designing our fan costumes. For the WWF matches, where there were a lot more young kids, we dressed as good guy fans and dressed as bad guy fans for the WCW matches, where the crowd was more young adults. We had the best times with the matches. We watched on TV, of course, to keep up with the story lines, and we did a newsletter, where we filled in our creative “behind the scenes stories.” I even did some photo cut and pasting long before I’d ever tried out Photoshop!
One of the most fun things we did was when we recycled sewing room scraps. When the Ultimate Warrior was new on the scene, the kids just loved him with his face paint, wild hair and arm and knee band with long flying tails. We cut the scraps of bright colored spandex and made sets of “Warrior Fringe” which we carried in a couple of black drawstring bags. We went to the matches at The Palace in Michigan and asked kids if they wanted Warrior arm bands. Parents questioned if there was a cost for the arm bands and we assured them it was free. We told them we made the arm bands from scraps in the sewing room and we just wanted to share. There is nothing cooler than kneeling on the floor of an arena with a line of kids waiting for you to tie their arm bands on! Equally cool is going back next month and seeing the arm bands you gave out last month come back! The truth is, we did the arm bands a second time when The Ultimate Warrior was in town, and I “donated” some larger pieces of spandex to the cause to make sure we had a good collection of them. Both times we “sold out” including one of the guys taking his own arm bands off when he had two kids and one set left. It was so much fun with the kids. Heck, in our 20s we were still kids!
The main event at WrestleMania was The Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan, good guy vs. good guy. Of course, we were cheering for The Ultimate Warrior because he was from Parts Unknown, just down the street from Parts Unknown Heights. But we were concerned that a match like this meant that one of them was turning into a bad guy, one of the fan favorites loved by lots of kids was turning bad. We were so happy at the end of the match! First, because the Ultimate Warrior won and became champion, but second, because as he celebrated his win, he encouraged everyone to cheer for Hulk Hogan, they slapped hands and gave a quick victory hug and saluted each other to the fans. Two good guys, the championship belt switched hands and they were still good guys when it was over, like it should be in sports, right?
Not long after WrestleMania, our interest in pro wrestling started to fade. The lines between good guys and bad guys were starting to gray, not cool in a “sport” followed by so many young kids! When Hulk Hogan said in promos that he was “taking potions to make himself stronger” to face an opponent at the time we were shocked. Performance enhancing drugs? Yes, definitely in pro-wrestling, but since it’s more acrobatic acting than a sport, not a big deal. But it becomes a big deal when you are telling kids you’re taking “potions,” that taking anything to get an edge is okay. There were other characters who were the worst kinds of good guys, who for their inability to be calm or curious in interviews would have automatically been bad guys a year earlier were suddenly introduced and you didn’t know if they wore a black hat or a white hat. They were becoming something in the middle, not the Saturday afternoon cowboys they used to be with their moral stories win or lose. Instead of moral guidance in the stories, it had started to become the question rather than an answer.
If you'd like to see some of the photos of our group in costume, drop me an email for a Friday By Request! ;)