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Blue Jays architect will tally Dunedin spring training needs, costs

Next week an architect from the Toronto Blue Jays will evaluate Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and its practice complex. Its needs will then be presented to the city of Dunedin.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2013)

Next week an architect from the Toronto Blue Jays will evaluate Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and its practice complex. Its needs will then be presented to the city of Dunedin.

DUNEDIN — It will be at least another month or so before the Toronto Blue Jays submit a spring training facilities wish list and cost estimate to the city.

Dunedin officials, who met several weeks ago with top Jays executives to kick off talks about a possible contract renewal, had been expecting the document by mid April.

But Mayor Dave Eggers said Jays president Paul Beeston told him Monday that the team intends to send an architect next week to determine whether the upgrades the team wants at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the nearby Englebert practice complex are possible and, if so, how much they would cost.

Once in hand, city officials plan to use the Jays' letter to pursue state and county funding.

"I think they're trying to assess what their needs are and what the facility has to offer, so they have a better feel," Eggers said, adding that the exercise will help the Jays avoid alienating anyone by either underestimating or overestimating the project's scope and cost. "I think that seems prudent."

The Jays have trained in Dunedin since the team formed in 1977 but spent several months last year exploring a deal with the Houston Astros for a two-team stadium complex in Palm Beach Gardens on Florida's east coast — an idea later quashed by community opposition.

Team officials had cited the nearly 4-mile distance between the Dunedin practice facilities and stadium as the impetus for their search for a new spring training home.

However, both the Jays and city officials have more recently said the team appears open to trying to make the split-facility model work — with a few tweaks.

The Jays' contract expires in 2017 and includes two five-year renewal options, but the city hopes to renegotiate a new agreement of 25-plus years.

In an effort to prevent Arizona from wooing away Major League teams, Florida lawmakers last year approved a measure that funnels millions of dollars in state cash to local governments that upgrade or build new ballparks.

Local governments have to match the state contribution. Dunedin has tentatively set aside $4 million as a placeholder in next year's budget.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Blue Jays architect will tally Dunedin spring training needs, costs 04/15/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 6:32pm]
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