The Toronto Blue Jays have been denied permission to play home games for the 2020 season at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pa. amid the coronavirus pandemic, health officials announced Wednesday.
The Blue Jays have been forced to find a new home stadium for the upcoming season after Canada denied the Blue Jays' request to play at Rogers Centre due to the frequent travel required. The team was awaiting approval from local and state Pennsylvania officials to share PNC Park with the Pirates for the season, per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi.
“In recent weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in southwestern Pennsylvania,” Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s secretary of health, said in a statement. “To add travelers to this region for any reason, including for professional sports events, risks residents, visitors and members of both teams. We know that this virus does not discriminate, and can even make professional athletes very sick. We are committed to protecting the health and well-being of all Pennsylvanians.”
The Blue Jays' schedule overlapped with the Pirates' on seven dates, during which time Toronto was expected to play at the away team's stadium. The team is now looking at other alternatives, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
The denial from Pennsylvania's Department of Health comes one week before the Blue Jays are slated to play their first home game of the 60-game 2020 MLB season on July 29. Toronto general manager Ross Atkins has previously said that the team has at least five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams.
Prior to honing in on PNC Park, the Blue Jays were reportedly considering playing at their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, N.Y or at its Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Fla. The preference among players was to play in a major league stadium.
The Blue Jays are scheduled to open their season at Tampa Bay on Friday with their first home game occurring on July 29 against the defending champion Washington Nationals.