The speculation along Florida's Gulf Coast is growing that the Blue Jays are considering moving their spring training home of Dunedin for a shared facility with the Astros at Palm Beach Gardens, on Florida's east coast.
Dunedin has been the spring home of the Jays since their inception. Their 15 year lease with Florida Auto Exchange Stadium (home of the Class A Dunedin Jays of the Florida State League) expires in 2017.
Jays President Paul Beeston told Canadian media this spring that while his heart was still in Dunedin, and in "a perfect world" he would prefer to keep the club's spring headquarters there, the stadium is about six km away from their spring home at the Bobby Mattick minor league training centre. Players, scouts, media, and front office personnel need to be shuttled back and forth between the two sites. Florida Auto Exchange Stadium itself was built in 1930, and was renovated in 2002, but is still short of state of the art, with cramped washroom and concession space, and limited parking. The D-Jays have had the FSL's worst home attendance for 6 straight years. To date, their average attendance after 30 home dates is a paltry 735 fans per game - about half the league's average.
|Florida Auto Exchange Stadium|
In April, South Florida media was reporting that newly proposed legislation at the state level was geared at granting millions of dollars to cities that renovate or build new two-team stadiums, with the joint Jays-Astros complex at the heart of the proposal. The Astros indicated that they have received indications that the Jays are interested. The Marlins and Cards train in Palm Beach County, while the Mets are in nearby St Lucie County.
Mayor Eggers continued after spring training ended to try reach Beeston, who at one point sent a brief email to say he would visit to discuss get negotiations underway in two weeks, but didn't. Former Jays trainer Ken Carson, who runs the Mattick Complex, speculated that Beeston is preoccupied with trying to get the AL East cellar-dwelling Blue Jays back on track, and while he acknowledged that teams are courted and do consider offers when their leases are about to expire (the Jays looked at other sites, including Las Vegas, before the most recent renewal in 2002), he denied that the Astros and Jays have a deal in place.
How much of this is part of the normal give and take, back and forth, we'll be in touch manner of negotiations between a municipality and a professional sports team, is hard to say. There are still several years left on the lease. This may also be an attempt by the Jays to wrangle a better deal out of Dunedin. It may also be an attempt to upgrade their training and minor league facility. Either way, the club's silence on the matter speaks volumes.