Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blue Jays to Kiss & Make Up With Dunedin?

   The Blue Jays, who had been hopeful of relocating their Spring Training and Florida State League franchise site to Florida's Atlantic Coast,  may have to approach the City of Dunedin with hats in hand after Palm Beach Gardens Council rejected a stadium proposal in that community submitted by the Jays and Astros, citing concerns from residents near the proposed site about increased noise and traffic congestion. 
   Blue Jays President Paul Beeston has stated his preference for not conducting negotiations with Dunedin City officials in the media, but according to Keyonna Summers of the Tampa Bay Times, the two sides have finally agreed to hold talks at the end of the month about extending the team's lease with the City, which expires in 2017.
   The Blue Jays have expressed concerns with what they view as inadequate facilities at Dunedin's Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, and the fact that their training site and the stadium are not part of the same complex, forcing team officials and players to commute for about 10 minutes (depending on traffic) between their two spring sites.  The Jays' bottom line, presumably, is that no one else has to commute, so why should we?  Dunedin's bottom line appears to be doing whatever it takes to keep the team, short of building a new stadium site.
   The two sides have not talked for months, but this is how we imagined their last conversation in the fall went:

Blue Jays:  "Hey, we love the area and the significant economic impact six weeks of our spring presence   
                   brings to it, but moving forward, we need to look at an integrated and full-facilities site for the   
                   benefit of our players and fans. They have needs. Seriously.  It's not you, it's us."

City of Dunedin: "That's ok.  We get it.  No worries.  You don't like to travel, and land is at a premium
                           around here.  We should get together and talk when our busy schedules permit. Hey, did
                           you know we have Milwaukee stopping by this weekend ? Apparently, their
                           lease is up soon."

   This is how these things tend to go.  Beeston made it known to The Globe and Mail last fall that the four-mile distance between the two spring sites is less than ideal, followed by Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers responding that the city wanted to hire a professional sports negotiator, and commission an economic survey to determine the Blue Jays true financial impact on the area.  Both sides pledged to meet, then "scheduling conflicts" got in the way, and the next thing you know, the Jays are said to be in talks with the Astros, while Dunedin officials start courting other major league teams with expiring leases. And around and around they go.....
   The bottom line is that the Jays are in Dunedin until at least 2017, and likely beyond.  Each side will try to continue to gain some leverage on the other until that time.  It will be interesting to see if any progress is made at this month's meeting (assuming that schedules, the stars, and the planets align), or if it's more game-playing.

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