According to Keyonna Summers of the Tampa Bay Times, the Toronto Blue Jays have agreed to meet with city officials for a preliminary discussion about the team’s future in Dunedin. The coastal city of approximately 35,000 people has been the host of Blue Jays spring training since 1977.
To rehash a bit of the back story, the Blue Jays had previously threatened to leave Dunedin because of their unhappiness with the facilities. They joined the Houston Astros with hopes of building a new state-of-the-art complex in Palm Beach Gardens but that plan was met with heavy local resistance and the deal is now “dead”, according to Summers. She gets a quote from Jays’ senior consultant Ken Carson who said as far as he knew the Blue Jays were no longer involved in the Astros’ search for a new spring training home.
The Blue Jays weren’t that involved in the “search” process to begin and only signed a letter of intent after the Astros’ found the original site in Palm Beach Gardens. If Houston owner Jim Crane is able to find another location I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Blue Jays jump back on board. However it might not be easy as a Palm Beach County administrator notes “prime land able to accommodate a 100-acre or so stadium is scarce” on the well-developed Florida east coast.
In regards to the upcoming meeting, Dunedin mayor David Eggers says it should give the city some clarity as to what the Blue Jays are looking for and whether or not they can deliver on those needs. Their current contract expires in December 2017 and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star thinks “all of this relocation posturing can only help speed up improvements” and the biggest issue remains the 10-minute commute between the minor and major league complexes. Other issues including parking and only one full diamond at the main stadium and Griff adequately sums it up as follows:
Dunedin is considered the Wally World of spring training compared to other Disney-like entertainment palaces that have sprung up in both Florida and Arizona.
Blue Jays’ President Paul Beeston refuses to publicly discuss Dunedin but according to Summers “the team has pledged to remain in Dunedin until its contract expires.” The major issue remains whether or not Dunedin will be able to meet the Blue Jays demands, but at least the two sides appear ready to start talking some things out.