They were the talk of the town from 1985-1993.

The Toronto Blue Jays practically owned the city for nearly a decade and often pushed the Maple Leafs off the front pages of the sports section. One Toronto columnist even suggested back then that Toronto was now a baseball town more so than a hockey town.

While he may have been using hyperbole, the comment spoke volumes about Toronto?s then love affair with their Blue Jays. It is hard to believe it was more than ten years ago that 50,000 jammed the Skydome regularly to cheer on the American League powerhouse.

My how times have changed. The Blue Jay fans left the Skydome in the mid-1990s and haven?t returned -- average attendance is barely scraping 20, 000 per night. Yet, from 1990 to 1993, the Jays drew more crowds than baseball had ever seen and regularly broke league attendance marks. Since those halcyon days, attendance has dropped dramatically. It?s been a long time since the Skydome was consistently full and there is serious concern about how to bring the fans back.

In the late ?80s and early ?90s, the place to be for the trendy people was down at the Dome. They weren?t really baseball fans -- many couldn't name all of the American League teams -- but the self proclaimed movers and shakers of Toronto made sure everyone knew they would be at the Blue Jay game that day. It was considered important to be seen there. The allegedly fashionable executive couldn?t tell the difference between a balk and a sacrifice bunt and spent more time on the concourse level sipping his latte than watching the game. Thank goodness cell phones were still a luxury otherwise you would have had a symphony of ring tones going off all game.

Back then, the Skydome was all the rage. Toronto media constantly reminded everyone that it had the first retractable roof and fans cheered when it close during a game. The self proclaimed ?World?s Greatest Entertainment Center? was spoofed in an editorial cartoon that showed a group of people bowing down to an image of it. The navel gazing folks in Toronto continued to tell everyone that their beloved Skydome made them a world-class city -- whatever that means.

Attached to the Skydome is an overpriced hotel. Several years after opening its doors, a couple drew headlines around the world for displaying their sexual prowess to all those in the cheap seats. In addition, the Skydome features a health club with membership fees akin to the Gross National Product of Taiwan, a Hard Rock Café, and other expensive goodies.

All of this, not to mention construction delays, inflated the price of the complex from under $80 million to $600 million. In a scaled down repeat of the Montreal Olympic Stadium debacle, the bill was presented to the taxpayers.

The franchise started losing it in 1994. Without question, the work stoppage was damaging. Many fans left not only the Blue Jays, but also all of baseball. Since then, it has been a struggle to keep people in the seats at any Major League ball park, let alone one whose team struggles to reach .500 every year. The Jays haven?t won more than 88 games since their championship season of 1993 when they won 95.

In the era of free agency, players have formed a revolving door and it?s difficult to develop a nucleus of young players that don?t move on after a stellar year. Every team, though, has to fight that battle since Curt Flood challenged baseball?s reserve clause in 1970.

Skyrocketing salaries the past two decades have left many cynical and the fan pays. Major League Baseball used to be promoted as inexpensive family entertainment, yet by the late 1980s a second mortgage was needed to take a family of four to the ballpark.

The Blue Jays have the disadvantage of ticket revenues arriving in Canadian dollars and team payroll being in American dollars. New owner Rogers Communications has lost over $100 million and continued losses will result in another for sale sign outside the clubhouse.

Certainly a winning team will bring the fans back. The Blue Jays desperately need not only a winning season but also a championship season to reawaken the city to the team.

Once a team has brought home a championship, the age of innocence is gone and nothing short of that will satisfy the fans. Why that isn?t true of Leaf fans, however, is a bigger mystery than the purpose of Stonehenge. Several more years of apathy by Toronto to their Blue Jays could result in the team becoming part of the next contraction talks or even a move to an American city. Ten years ago this would be thought impossible, but today, with salaries out of control and diminished television revenues, it could become reality.

Competition for entertainment dollars is fierce and people realize that their money spends just as easily elsewhere. Despite recent efforts to prop up the franchise with promotions and incentives for 2005, the Jays are in trouble and if present trends continue, Toronto may soon be saying good-bye to the Blue Jays.