The Blue Jays unveiled some images for their plans for Dunedin’s new training facility and upgraded stadium earlier today. This $81-million project has been a few years in the making and has been one of Mark Shapiro’s biggest priorities since joining the organization back in fall 2015. It’s expected that the new and upgraded facility will be set to open in 2020.
Here are the images, via Ben Nicholson-Smith, which features a much improved, modern looking stadium, larger fan section inside the grounds, and multiple other fields for practice and development.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) December 19, 2018
For those who don’t remember, there had been a big saga in which the Blue Jays fought with the local government over how this project was going to be funded. It ended up coming down to the State of Florida fronting some money, the county putting in tourism development funding, and the Jays kicking in some cash of their own.
Besides the $13.6 million commitment from the state, the county will use tourist development tax funds of $41.7 million to pay their share of the project’s cost. The city’s share is $5.66 million and the Blue Jays have agreed to contribute $20 million. – Source
Let me tell you, as somebody who has attended spring training at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, this is a renovation the Blue Jays badly needed. From a fan perspective, the stadium was tiny and there wasn’t much room to move around. There’s nothing in the outfield and there’s very little going on in the grounds themselves. From a team perspective, the team locker room looked like a change room at a local YMCA and the practice fields adjacent to the stadium are, like, little league calibre. I’m serious, it’s bad!
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on baseball development and facilities and this and that, but having travelled around to multiple other facilities in Florida for spring training, Florida Auto Exchange was the bottom of the barrel. I mean, spring training is one thing. The fan experience isn’t the end of the world. It is what it is, which is old people travelling down to Florida to chill in the sun and watch weird baseball.
The important thing here is the Jays getting an upgrade on a key facility for their minor league developmental system. Beyond what we can see with these fancy images, the new training rooms will be loaded with all sorts of cool new equipment for the Large Adult Sons to use. Again, this is much better than the YMCA-ass-shit they have going on now. Nothing against the YMCA, but, ya know.
We’ve seen the organization become much, much more modernized in regards to development under the Shapiro regime and this renovation is a key phase in that shift. Next up, renovate 1 Blue Jays Way.