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Gag order bars Dunedin from discussing 'positive' stadium talks

DUNEDIN — Negotiations with the Toronto Blue Jays surrounding a new spring training contract remain "very positive," says Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, who met with team officials just days after being voted into office.

On Nov. 7, roughly 72 hours after winning the election, Bujalski took team president Paul Beeston and Blue Jays attorney Matthew Shuber up on their offer to fly here and discuss plans for either a new or remodeled stadium.

"It was the meeting we were all waiting for," Bujalski said. "Overall, I feel very confident."

But Bujalski says she can't say much more because of a confidentiality agreement invoked by the baseball organization.

In September 2013, the Jays sent a letter asking city officials to keep mum, citing a Florida law that threatens anyone who reveals the business plans of a private company that requests confidentiality with a misdemeanor.

After speaking with Shuber this September, City Attorney Tom Trask okayed the yearlong ban.

"The city of Dunedin looks forward to continuing the dialogue that has been ongoing," Trask wrote.

The Jays have trained in Dunedin since the team formed 37 years ago but spent several months last year exploring a deal with the Houston Astros for a two-team complex in Palm Beach Gardens — an idea later quashed by community opposition.

Team officials initially said the nearly 4-mile distance between the Dunedin practice facilities and stadium prompted their search for a new home. They have since told the city they welcome a split-facility layout but want to add at least one full field at the stadium.

The Jays and the city brought in separate architects to draw up conceptual blueprints. As of August, Dunedin officials said they had been waiting about five months for the Jays to submit in writing a list of desired facility upgrades and cost estimate that the city can use to seek financial assistance from the county and state.

Bujalski said she and local baseball officials are planning festivities to celebrate the Jays' March 3 spring training opener. She said the chamber of commerce is gathering a delegation to once again travel to Toronto to show support during the team's first home game in April.

Contact Keyonna Summers at ksummers@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4153. Follow @KeyonnaSummers.

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