DUNEDIN — Contrary to impressions left by media reports, the Milwaukee Brewers have not had talks with the city of Dunedin about relocating here for baseball spring training.
For months, the media and Major League baseball enthusiasts have closely followed every move of the Toronto Blue Jays, who have held spring training in Dunedin since the team was founded, and the Houston Astros, who train in Kissimmee. The Jays and Astros are pursuing a proposal for a joint spring training stadium in Palm Beach Gardens on Florida's east coast.
The Jays' contract with Dunedin expires in December 2017.
After the Tampa Bay Business Journal noted in a story about Dunedin and the Blue Jays last month that the Brewers and Washington Nationals are nearing the end of their existing leases, the Journal's Milwaukee sister paper contacted the Brewers and asked whether the team would consider trading its Phoenix spring training digs for Florida.
Brewers executive vice president Bob Quinn vaguely replied that "we are reviewing all of our options and have not ruled anything out at this point." But that was enough to spark news reports this week suggesting that the club is formally considering a move to Dunedin.
Not so. Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers told the Tampa Bay Times that he hasn't talked to the Brewers or any other team since telling the Jays last month that he would start reaching out to potential replacement teams.
"I plan to start making those calls early next week," Eggers said Thursday.
Those preliminary talks, he told commissioners last month, would include a simple introduction, information about all Dunedin and the Tampa Bay region have to offer, and an invitation to formally sit down to discuss teams' wants and needs.
The Jays' main frustration with Dunedin, team president Paul Beeston has said, is the 3.5-mile distance between the city's 5,509-seat, 12-acre stadium on Douglas Avenue and the 23-acre Englebert Complex on Solon Avenue where players train.
Many new spring training stadium complexes now occupy 100 acres or more. Dunedin parks and recreation director Vince 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.
The city only briefly considered one of the largest vacant tracts in the city — the 23-acre former Nielsen property on Patricia Avenue — for a new stadium/training complex before determining it is too small.
Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post reported Friday that about 200 residents attended a Palm Beach Gardens City Hall meeting Thursday to oppose the city council's consideration of a 117-acre Jays-Astros complex.
Residents fear the stadium would bring food and garbage trucks, team buses, scalpers, drug- and alcohol-infused tailgating, car thefts and break-ins that would destroy their neighborhoods' tranquility, endanger children walking to school and threaten the city's reputation, the paper reported.
Palm Beach Gardens council members said they've received scant details about the proposed stadium and haven't formed opinions on the project yet. But they were criticized Thursday for unanimously approving an ordinance that would reduce the amount of natural preserve land the city has to set aside should the project move forward.
Officials responded that the ordinance could apply to construction of other projects built on government-owned land, like a fire station or post office — not just a stadium.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected]