The Toronto Blue Jays would stay at a renovated Florida Auto Exchange Stadium under the terms of an $81-million upgrade plan currently under discussion between the city, architects and team officials.
There’s still a lot to work out, but the current plan calls for Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to be upgraded a la Steinbrenner Field and Joker Marchant Stadium, rather than being town down and constructed from scratch. (The reason? It would take too long and be too disruptive to Blue Jays spring training.) The Blue Jays would commit to another 25 years in Dunedin, keeping the team at the same training locale it’s enjoyed since 1977, with a projected opening in 2019.
It’s been an open secret that the Blue Jays see the current Florida Auto Exchange Stadium/Mattick Training Center situation as being detrimental to both player development and attracting free agents, and at one point the team was ready to partner with the Houston Astros on a joint complex in Palm Beach County. But those plans fell through, and the Blue Jays turned back to Dunedin to work out a ballpark plan. The team would still keep the split ballpark/training complex situation in place, but both facilities would be upgraded. From the Tampa Bay Times:
City staff says the plans call for Pinellas County to fund more than half the project, putting up about $46 million. That money would come from the Tourist Development Council bed tax dollars, money raised through a 6 percent tourist tax allocated to marketing and capital projects, which the city will apply for soon.
The team would shoulder about $15.7 million, the state about $13.6 million and the city the rest — about $5.6 million….
More details will come to light on Monday during a public workshop where officials from both the city and the team will explain the ins and outs of the project. On Tuesday, the city will hold an open house, where residents can come to ask questions and talk with people involved in the process.
Nothing is assured as of now. State money through a program designed to keep MLB teams training in Florida is not a given, but Dunedin is coming in far lower than what other cities have requested.