Pros: You can't beat the view.
Cons: Make sure you drive to the north side of the Skydome.
"Do you have driving directions to this place?"
"Don't need 'em. There it is."
"Right there. That big... stadium thingy."
"But... where's the hotel?"
"Well... it's around here somewhere."
"I don't see it," my wonderful, beautiful fiancee told me. "It doesn't seem to be anywhere. Are you sure you know where we're going?"
We were driving around the massive Skydome complex. We'd just gotten to Toronto; we'd flown in from Buffalo and driven there directly in our rental car. (Basically, it was much cheaper to do it that way than to figure out exactly how much more expensive it would have been to rent the car at the Toronto airport using Canadian dollars.) She was driving, I was navigating, and I wasn't exactly 100% sure of where we were -- always a dangerous situation. We were halfway to the Air Canada Centre when I suggested making an illegal U-turn, which we did.
We corrected my navigational error quickly enough -- I had assumed that we could drive in between the Skydome and the adjoining CN Tower -- the tallest tower in the world, by some accounts -- and there was a pedestrian plaza there. But we retraced our steps, and in no time we were at the Renaissance Hotel lobby, which is on the north side of the Skydome.
We checked in and were given our room keys. "I hope you enjoy your room," the front desk guy said. "It has a lovely view."
Well, so it did.
The Skydome Renaissance is famous for its rooms that overlook the floor of the Skydome. (Excuse me; it is now called the "Rogers Centre", but I'll use the older, non-corporate term if you don't mind.) We hadn't gotten one of these rooms. We'd wanted to stay there, of course, but the field-view rooms were nearly twice as much as a regular room, and about twenty times what a ticket to the game would cost. So we hadn't asked for a field-view room, and we hadn't expected to get one -- but we got one anyway, and were mightily impressed.
I found a Skydome photo which Eps won't let me link to ( http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/k/r/krw171/images/Hotel-Inside-Skydome.jpg); it'll give you an idea of where we were (the rooms in the upper left corner). The rooms are very high up, mind you -- the fourth floor of the hotel, and the fifth deck of the Skydome. We settled in to watch the game below -- the Cleveland Indians against the Toronto Blue Jays in an American League tilt -- and caught the last three innings. (Unfortunately, it was a nearly uneventful three innings, as the home team held on to its 2-1 lead.)
So, what's it like to see a game from a hotel room? It has its disadvantages. You are very high up, for one thing, which is disconcerting. (We're used to top-grade seats at our hometown Atlantic League games.) We couldn't see the AL out-of-town scoreboard (which is presented on the left-field video wall). Room service won't bring you nachos. And it's lonely up there; there was nobody sitting within a quarter mile of where we were, not counting the other people in the other hotel rooms that we couldn't see.
But these are minor quibbles at best. The seats are incredibly comfortable. There's no wait for the bathroom. You can get cold Cokes from the vending machine easily enough. And -- this is the key thing -- it is unutterably cool to watch a baseball game from that vantage, even part of a game. (They play football, too, at the Skydome; it's the home of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian league.)
We watched the action on the field for far longer than it lasted. After the game, the Jays let kids of all ages run around the bases, and we had a great view of that. After that, we went to dinner (the fancy revolving restaurant on the CN Tower) and came back, and spent quite a while watching the cleaning crew hose down the stadium. They turn down the house lights at night, but they don't turn them off while they're doing this -- see the photo, which was taken at 10:34 at night -- but the Renaissance boasts heavy curtains.
Other than that, there was nothing special about the room per se. It was a fairly standard hotel room, a little larger than most. There wasn't much in the way of amenities other than the presence of the diamond below -- but that's more than we thought we would get, and we left quite pleased.
The morning was a bit hectic. The Renaissance accelerates the checkout time for noon games, but we did get to stick around long enough to see the roof of the Skydome open -- a beautiful sight, with the main panel moving back at a majestic pace, and the secondary panel pivoting along its track, making a half-circuit of the huge stadium. Then we ventured down to the field and watched the visiting Indians get their revenge against the hometown Blue Jays.
(Oh, and there is -- yes, there is -- a free continental breakfast buffet at the Renaissance Skydome. Or at any rate, you get a ticket to the Bistro, which also overlooks the field, with certain packages. Unfortunately, we delayed in getting downstairs, and there was a long line just to get in the door, and we were forced to decamp and find sustenance elsewhere.)
The only real flaw in our stay is that it took approximately forever to obtain our car from valet parking after the game -- as you can imagine, lots of people were leaving at the same time. But that's a small flaw for an excellent hotel in an excellent location, with the kindness to set us up with a memorable room with a memorable view.
This is an entry -- an extremely reluctant entry -- in the write-off honoring Ed Grover. Reluctant, of course, for the reason behind the write-off -- Ed's tragic illness. But reluctant also because, well, honestly, he is not someone that I know well at all, and I suspect that we haven't a thing in common. The invitation I received stated that the reviews written should, ideally, either be in Ed's style or of a product he would have enjoyed, and this isn't either. But it is, in its way, about excellence, and there is no denying the excellence of his work, and of a kind gesture, of which there aren't enough in the world anyway. In that respect, I pass this along as a well-meaning gesture, but a small one, when measured against the backdrop of endless loss faced by all who know him well. God bless.