How long will Blue Jays spring training remain in Dunedin?


February 14, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; A worker for the Toronto Blue Jays gets the field ready during spring training at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Less than three months before pitchers and catchers report for 2014 Spring Training and it’s become increasingly unclear how long Dunedin, Florida will remain the preseason home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

As you probably recall, back in October Houston Astros’ owner Jim Crane made headlines (h/t when he said a deal was “95 percent” done to build a $100 million baseball complex and that the Blue Jays had also signed a letter of intent to go ahead with the shared facility. Crane stated that the new stadium in Palm Beach Gardens could open as early as 2016.

This wasn’t the first time we had heard that the Blue Jays could be leaving Dunedin. Back in April the Globe and Mail broke the Astros’ proposal to us here in Canada and stated that the Blue Jays were “open to options” when it came to finding a new Spring Training location.

According to Keyonna Summer of the Tampa Bays Times, Dunedin mayor Dave Eggers has announced that he will start contacting other MLB teams in case the Blue Jays don’t end up renewing their agreement with the city, which is set to expire in December 2017.

"“They’re doing their thing, so we’re going to do our thing.” – Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers"

Astros’ owner Jim Crane is pushing hard for the deal but there appears to be at least some resistance from locals, according to the Palm Beach Post.

"“We are not going to save baseball at the expense of all of our residents. I will tell you that I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t even have a transaction actually happen.” – Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Joe Russo"

I’ve never visited Dunedin myself but from everything I’ve heard the biggest problem is the distance between Florida Exchange Stadium and the minor league facility, which are 6 km or about a ten minute apart.

The Blue Jays have remained publicly quiet about the issue, which has been a stark contrast from Crane who appears (from the outside looking in) to be more involved in brokering the arrangement. According to the Houston Chronicle, he says that it could impact the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals who share a facility about 25 minutes from Palm Beach Gardens.

"“If we don’t get this deal done, it could have a serious impact on the Marlins and Cardinals because there’ll be nobody down there to play. So they’re much in favor of it."

Personally I think that the Toronto Blue Jays should pursue whatever option well help them put the most competitive team on the field. Having the major and minor league players all under one roof could be extremely beneficial to the Jays’ younger players. And it wouldn’t hurt to have a practice field within walking distance.

Some may be sad to see the Blue Jays leave Dunedin if they in fact do choose to, which has been the home to every spring training since the team’s inception in 1977. Regardless it sounds like time is running out on in Dunedin and if you listen to Crane a deal should eventually get done.