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Top bird shows off renovated Blue Jays stadium

The Toronto Blue Jays showed off their newly renovated spring training stadium Thursday as the team's president fielded questions from fans.

Under overcast skies, Paul Godfrey, president and CEO of the Jays, stood in the aisles of Dunedin Stadium with a microhone in hand.

The former publisher of the Toronto Sun, hired as the baseball team's president in 2000, spent about 45 minutes at the open house talking about contract and money matters concerning the team and its spring training home here, the site of a $13.5-million renovation, mostly funded by taxes.

"There has been a lot of misinformation around and I think this is a time when we thought it would be appropriate for those interested to see where a portion of their tax dollars were going," said Godfrey, who is also former chairman of the city of Toronto. "Everything that I have been involved in, I've always said there is value in being open."

He stressed the marketing and advertising efforts the team has launched to promote tourism in Florida, a campaign the team says cost $3-million.

"We want to be good corporate citizens," Godfrey said. "We don't want anyone to think we're getting a free ride on the backs of taxpayers."

Godfrey fielded questions from the audience, including one about whether he could promise that the Blue Jays would make it to the World Series.

Amid a wave of laughter Godfrey replied: "If I could promise that I would probably go to Vegas."

Fans toured the stadium and administrative building, which is part of the renovation of the team's spring training complex. They filed into the Jays batting cage, then made their way into the new fitness room, locker rooms and clubhouse.

The guided tour then moved to the second level where the team's administrative offices overlook the freshly groomed baseball field.

Jack St. Arnold, Dunedin resident and former commissioner, said the tour was a good idea and commended Godfrey for his efforts.

"By coming down here, he is doing the right thing," he said. "If people don't come to these games, this is going to be an economic disaster for everyone.

"If people rally around this and come, all those fears will not materialize."

_ Times researcher Kitty Bennett contributed to this story.