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Blue Jays, Dunedin officials still trying to work out a deal

Published Apr. 15, 2016

After months of hush-hush negotiations between the Toronto Blue Jays and their longtime spring training home of Dunedin, both sides say they want to stick together.

Team president Mark Shapiro told the Toronto Sun last week that he is "optimistic" there is a deal to be made in Dunedin. Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski on Thursday agreed, calling the relationship between the team and the city "positive."

Shapiro said there are "a lot of forces aligned" that lead him to feel so optimistic. Chief among them is the city's willingness to accommodate the team's needs.

"There is a good foundation, a good understanding of our expectations. I feel like (the city has) made an effort to provide us with a layout that would work," he told the Sun. "The hardest piece, as we have always said, is putting a financing deal together."

Canada's lone major-league baseball team has been in Dunedin since its 1977 debut. Shapiro says now the team needs more. In February, he called for a "state-of-the-art" facility that could give players the resources they need to "achieve their potential." He said the current facility, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium at 373 Douglas Ave., just isn't cutting it.

To renew the team's contract with Dunedin, which expires at the end of 2017, Shapiro says a more modern setup is a must. Still, he says the sentimental feelings between the team and the city are mutual.

"You've got one basic foundation, and that is that we want to stay there and they want to keep us there," he told the Sun. "Their passion for the Blue Jays is not just a light one. It's historical."

Bujalski said she echoes Shapiro's sentiments.

"The Blue Jays have shown a very good effort to want to stay in the city that loves them," she said. "I feel very confident that we can come to terms."

But it may not be up to Dunedin. Pinellas County officials will have to approve tourist dollars that would help finance a new facility.

Perhaps that's why Shapiro said the deal is "not even close" to done.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. Follow @mreeves_tbt.