Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

Officials shoot down reports that Blue Jays move is a done deal

DUNEDIN — A senior Toronto Blue Jays official and a Palm Beach Gardens spokesman Tuesday shot down a media report that implied the Jays' move from Dunedin to a new spring training home on Florida's east coast is a done deal.

In a report published late Monday, MLB.com quoted Houston Astros owner Jim Crane as saying that the team's quest to use a new state funding option to pursue construction of a shared facility with the Jays was "95 percent" complete.

"The Blue Jays have committed and signed a letter of intent, so we're ready to move forward," Crane told MLB.com. "That thing should be buttoned up hopefully by the end of October."

Not quite, said Ken Carson, the Jays' Dunedin-based senior consultant and former director of Florida operations. While Palm Beach Gardens remains an option, he said the matter's "definitely not" decided.

"There's nothing carved in stone or nothing 100 percent for sure," Carson said. "Letters of intent don't mean anything. All that means is that you're interested."

And Palm Beach Gardens spokesman Tom McNicholas said the city and Palm Beach County are still studying the impact a new stadium would have on traffic and finances.

Both entities would have to hold public hearings and votes before submitting an application to the Florida Sports Foundation and Florida Department of Economic Opportunity seeking funding. A DEO spokeswoman told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month that the agency was still finalizing rules for the new law.

"We are thrilled that Jim Crane and the Astros are committed to Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach County," McNicholas said in a statement. "However, right now we are only preparing for the public process and we have much due diligence to complete in an effort to be certain this project is good for our community."

As of press time, an Astros spokesman said he was unaware of the MLB.com report and was researching the matter. Jays reps hadn't responded to Times inquiries.

In the meantime, Dunedin officials are still pursuing dialogue with the Jays.

According to a Sept. 23 letter from Mayor Dave Eggers to Jays owner Paul Beeston, Dunedin parks director Vince Gizzi was set to fly to Toronto Sept. 27 to review conceptual stadium designs that the city had worked up with a local architect. Dunedin had based the plans on information gleaned from media accounts and brief phone conversations with Beeston, Eggers wrote.

The letter also said the city was working with Tampa officials to arrange its latest stadium tour and that an economic impact study was under way.

The city has already produced a marketing brochure showcasing all that Dunedin and Pinellas County offer a Major League team.

Eggers, Gizzi and City Manager Rob DiSpirito weren't immediately available Tuesday for comment.

"There has been a groundswell of support for retaining the Jays" in the team's only spring training home since its 1977 inception, Eggers wrote, citing the business community, Canadian residents and visitors, local lawmakers and residents.

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

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