Can weather intelligence and open roofs help win baseball games?

Open roofs help win games. And we know through experience that our weather intelligence has helped out music festival organizers as well. At the Rogers Centre baseball stadium, the Toronto Blue Jays cannot afford dampness on the field of play. Although baseball can be, and often is, played through rain, as long as it’s not too heavy, if a stadium has a retractable roof then why not use it?

The Rogers Centre has such a roof and the organization likes to keep it open whenever possible. Concessions sell better. If we look at the 2015 and 2016 seasons, then the team is more likely to win. During those two years, when the roof was open from start to end, the Blue Jays’ percentage of wins was around 70 per cent while only about 40 per cent when it was closed.

On August 7th, the evening game against the visiting Boston Red Sox presented a tricky situation for the Rogers Centre. Good weather and an open roof at the start of the game at 7:07 pm was expected. But pop-up showers were expected to develop in the Greater Toronto area through the evening. These were partly due to convergence assisted by late-day lake-breezes off Lake Ontario in an inherently weakly unstable atmosphere.

Were any of these going to hit the stadium or not? That’s the jeopardy of both the preference for an open stadium and the uncertainty of a shower developing right over it. At 7.30 pm the game was into the second inning with the crowd enjoying some late-day sunshine and it was a 50/50 call for the remainder of the evening. A telephone call was made by MeteoGroup to the stadium’s Roof Control at the start of the game to give them an early warning of the possibilities. Especially given that isolated showers had begun to pop up just north of Highway 401. These would prove to be tricky to track given their slow-moving nature and because they subsequently kept collapsing and rebuilding. No definitive call could be made for a decision to close the dome, at least not at that early stage. However, the stadium was now prepared and primed for potential worsening conditions and for further dialogue through the evening. (Keep in mind that the average duration of a Major League baseball game is about three hours.)

It takes 19 minutes to close the bulk of the roof and about 10 minutes for a smaller section. So it’s in no one’s interest waiting until a shower is right on your doorstep. At 8pm, Toronto Pearson Airport (located northwest of Rogers Centre) reported a shower and by 8:20pm radar revealed that showers had started developing as expected a little farther south, closer to the Rogers Centre. There were still chances that these would move past the stadium rather than across it. But a further call was made to Roof Control to advise them of the growing risks.

Rogers Centre Roof Opening

The expectation was that rain would hit by 9:30 pm. So the decision was made to close the larger part of the roof to mitigate against the threat of shower intensification. And leave the smaller section open until it was absolutely necessary to close it. At 8:40pm a further call was made to Roof Control to advise that the confidence in rain falling was high enough for the roof closure to be completed rather than there being any hope that it could all be re-opened. Around 9:20 pm it started to rain and the shower cell intensified to deliver a copious downpour.

Rogers Centre Rader 7th August 2

The client called us back with relief. A call to close the roof is not trivial once a game is underway. So it was important that this was justified. Moreover, the radar to which they refer at the stadium is from a free website. Up until 8.50 pm he had been a little puzzled about what we were referring to - his radar simply did not show the bulk of the precipitation that was apparent on higher resolution radar that we were looking at. Without the input of MeteoGroup’s help, he would have assumed nothing was threatening the stadium. After beginning the roof-closing process, however, he glanced at this public radar which had refreshed and now showed the looming showers about which he had been warned.

Rogers Centre Rader 7th August 1

Such events serve to show that detailed local forecasts still benefit from the eyes and guidance of 24/7 meteorologists.

Interested in knowing how MeteoGroup can help you? Please contact us for more information.

Would you like to read more, in Dutch? Please see this blog about how meteorological information is essential for festival organizers.

Without the input of MeteoGroup’s we would have assumed nothing was threatening the stadium.