Saturday, April 21, 2018
Business

Report: Blue Jays may move spring training from Dunedin

DUNEDIN — A Canadian newspaper reported this week that the Toronto Blue Jays are considering ditching Dunedin as their spring training home in favor of more modern facilities somewhere else.

Blue Jays president Paul Beeston told the Toronto-based Globe and Mail that the facilities in Dunedin are not ideal, with the stadium on Douglas Avenue and the training complex several miles away.

The article's author called Florida Auto Exchange Stadium "long past its best-before date" and mentioned that during a recent Blue Jays-Yankees game, the souvenir shop was cramped, there were long lines for restrooms and there was a "desperate lack" of stadium parking.

Though Beeston told the newspaper that the facilities haven't prevented the team from being successful and that "in a perfect world" the team would stay in Dunedin, he also confirmed that the team plans to assess its options over the next year.

The Jays' 15-year lease of the stadium expires in 2017. The Blue Jays have trained in Dunedin each spring since 1977, the year the team was founded.

Dunedin parks and recreation director Vince Gizzi said it is team officials' job "as good business people" to test the waters.

"It looks like the Blue Jays are speculating to find the best arrangement for themselves," Gizzi said. "I don't think there's anything more than that at this point."

Mayor Dave Eggers agreed: "It's way too early to be super excited or super depressed."

Besides, Gizzi believes that Dunedin has a competitive edge.

"The major-league teams don't want to get in buses and travel," Gizzi said, pointing to sparse Grapefruit League competitor options on Florida's east coast.

"The location here in Dunedin is great because of the close proximity to all the ballparks within an hour or less," he said, citing teams in Clearwater, Sarasota, Hillsborough County, Lakeland and Bradenton. "And I think we have a strong fan base here that supports the Blue Jays and Major League Baseball here."

Eggers said Beeston's comments to the Globe and Mail mirror those in a casual conversation the two men had on Friday.

Neither Beeston nor Florida operations manager Shelby Nelson returned calls from the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday, and team spokesman Patrick Kurish declined to comment.

The team has been courted by other communities in the past but chose to remain in Dunedin. The team's main frustration, Beeston said, is the 3.5-mile distance between the 5,509-seat, 12-acre stadium on Douglas Avenue and the Englebert Complex on Solon Avenue where players train. Gizzi said that complex has five full practice fields, one artificial-turf field, batting cages, pitching areas, a clubhouse, locker rooms and office space spread over 23 acres.

Pasco County aggressively pursued the Jays before Dunedin shelled out roughly $14 million for facility renovations at the outset of the current contract.

Meanwhile, stadiums in Naples and Fort Myers — Canadian vacation hot spots within driving distance of spring training facilities for the Marlins, the Cardinals and others — are vacant.

Many new spring training stadium complexes now occupy 100 acres or more. Gizzi said at least 50 to 60 acres would be required to combine stadium and practice facilities. Dunedin, which is mostly built out, doesn't have many large, vacant parcels of land. Officials have mentioned that the roughly 23-acre former Nielsen Media Research campus on Patricia Avenue is the largest single property available in the city.

Eggers declined to comment on potential city parcels large enough to accommodate a new sports complex, saying it's too early to know whether facilities are a deal breaker.

"We're going to officially sit down with them and get their criteria," he said, "and try to come up with solutions that meet their needs."

Meanwhile, a report on spring training, including facility funding options, that Gizzi was scheduled to present to the City Commission on April 4 has been moved up to the March 21 meeting.

"I want (everyone) to know we want that team and Major League Baseball," Eggers said, "and we're going to start working real hard to earn that 15- to 20-year agreement."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected]

Comments
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18