Report: Jays plan to remain in Dunedin for 25 years with $81-million in renovations to Spring Training facilities

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Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times has what seems like good news for snowbirds and Jays fans who like making the pilgrimage down I-75 every spring to the club’s only ever spring home in Dunedin: a “preliminary” plan appears to be in place that, pending approval of funding and various political and bureaucratic hoops, will keep the Blue Jays there for a long, long time.

Preliminary plans show the team’s stadium and training facility locations will stay the same, but the city and team will partner with the county and state to do about $81 million in renovations and rebuilds. And in exchange for the high-dollar project, the team would agree to spend another 25 years in the city.

That’s outstanding news. Uh… unless you’re a local taxpayer.

Or maybe even if you are. The economic benefits of publicly funded stadium projects are dubious at best, but the situation at a spring site is different, because it’s about tourist dollars, too. I assure you I have no idea whether the various local governments’ investments — which are hefty — will end up paying off from all us Canadians flocking there each March, but evidently they felt good about both the long-term impacts and the fact that the construction projects will help the local economy as well. So… good enough for me!

Even if, y’know, it’s kinda gross.

Because it is a lot that’s being put up by the folks in Florida. According to the report, the Jays will pay just $15.7-million of the $81-million bill, with the rest of it falling to the city, county, and state governments. If the plan gets approval, that is.

“A preliminary timeline shows commissioners voting to apply for county and state funds early next month, a move that will snowball into a string of meetings and votes before the commission can approve the agreement in its entirety next summer. The city hopes to have the project done in time for Opening Day in spring 2019,” Reeves explains.

The way it sounds makes it seem a little like the whole thing will simply be rubber-stamped through, but I have no idea on any of that stuff, and certainly wouldn’t consider it done until shovels are actually in the ground.

Or demolition crews are in action. Or… whatever they’re doing actually gets underway.

And what is it that they’re doing? It doesn’t seem that anybody is too sure at the moment — the team and the city declined to comment for the Times’ story — but what’s clear, as noted in the quote above, is that the club will continue to operate two sites. What one assumes will change is that rather have big leaguers and minor leaguers train at the separate facilities, they will all train together at the Mattick Complex, with players and staff busing over to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium for games only.

Whether F.A.E.S. is renovated or fully demolished and replaced remains to be seen, according to the report. Some shade for the fans would be nice, guys!!

But anyway, yeah… there it is. I think it’s the spring training plan that we all wanted to hear. Uh… except maybe the reporters and team staff who are sick of spending six weeks in Dunedin every spring and having to move back and forth between facilities. But Dunedin is quaint-ish, in a Florida kind of way! And plenty of Jays fans have property there, the business community is welcoming, the nostalgia factor is significant and… well… this really was the right thing to do.

So, y’know, hopefully they do manage to do it.