Though a renovation is far from a done deal, the Toronto Blue Jays are bringing in an architect to price out Dunedin ballpark renovations at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the Cecil B. Englebert practice complex.
The Blue Jays had explored moving from Dunedin to a shared complex with the Houston Astros, but concerns over that facility led the team ownership to look at staying in the greater Tampa Bay area. Though Blue Jays officials have been outspoken about the inadequacies of their spring-training setup — shuffling players between complexes isn’t convenient, and Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is a very basic facility that could benefit from upgrades — a specific plan for upgrades has never been presented to Dunedin officials. From the Tampa Bay Times:
Mayor Dave Eggers said Jays president Paul Beeston told him Monday that the team intends to send an architect next week to determine whether the upgrades the team wants at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the nearby Englebert practice complex are possible and, if so, how much they would cost.
Once in hand, city officials plan to use the Jays’ letter to pursue state and county funding.
“I think they’re trying to assess what their needs are and what the facility has to offer, so they have a better feel,” Eggers said, adding that the exercise will help the Jays avoid alienating anyone by either underestimating or overestimating the project’s scope and cost. “I think that seems prudent.”
Dunedin has already set aside $4 million for ballpark upgrades, and there’s the possibility that number could be matched by a state program designed to keep teams training in Florida. Now, $4 million — or even $8 million — won’t got you a whole lot when it comes to the improvements possible at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and the Englebert practice complex: player dorms, better clubhouses, a wraparound concourse, upgraded and expanded seating, more shade, better group areas, and more. And then there’s the whole issue of parking. But a spring-training game in Dunedin is a great thing, and improving Florida Auto Exchange Stadium will make it even better.