Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle throws during an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida.
Dunedin, Florida (News-Press) -- Lee County will contact the Toronto Blue Jays about their 12-month
search for a new spring training home with the goal of putting them in
vacant City of Palms Park, said Lee County Commission Chairman Cecil
The Blue Jays, according to
The (Toronto)Globe and Mail newspaper, will spend the next year looking
at contingency plans, as their lease in Dunedin expires in 2017.
had no discussions with the Blue Jays, but since this news has emerged,
we will reach out to them to have a discussion on any possibilities for
City of Palms," interim Lee County Manager Doug Meurer said.
Jays President Paul Beeston and other team officials could not be
reached for comment Wednesday. Beeston told The Globe and Mail in a
"perfect world," the team would remain in Dunedin, the Blue Jays' home
since the team's first year, 1977.
been in Dunedin from the beginning, and it hasn't impeded us from being
successful," Beeston told the Toronto paper. The Blue Jays have trained
on the same site longer than any other big-league team. "Having said
that, it's not an ideal situation from the player-development
perspective, with the separate complexes."
separate complexes would be what the Blue Jays would get were they to
inherit the former spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
as City of Palms Park sits 2.5 miles west of the minor league complex,
both on Edison Avenue, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium sits 3.5 miles from
the Blue Jays' minor league complex in Dunedin.
was discouraged to learn that where they are now, they have to drive
between their major and minor league facilities, and they don't like
doing that," Commissioner Frank Mann said of the 5,509-seat Florida
Auto Exchange Stadium, the second-smallest spring training venue in the
major leagues. "Here, we're stuck with the same issue. It's only a
couple of miles, but it seems to be a problem. But we would love to talk
to them. And our lines of communication are still open with the
which has assumed control of City of Palms Park from Fort Myers, has
been courting new tenants for the 8,000-seat stadium since agreeing to
build the $80 million JetBlue Park in a 30-year lease agreement with the
Red Sox that began last year.
The Washington Nationals and Lee have been negotiating, but the two sides have not spoken in recent weeks.
said he learned of the Toronto report Wednesday and within the hour
had talked to Meurer, urging him to contact the Blue Jays.
up to our staff to talk to them," Pendergrass said. "We have a facility
already available and ready to go. We have a large fan base of
Canadians who are already here."
attracted 147,076 Canadians who stayed in hotels or other paid
accommodations in 2011, an increase from 122,175 in 2010, according to
information provided by the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Two years ago, 34,331 Canadians paid for rooms in Lee in the spring.
From 2010 to 2011, Canada passed Germany as the largest supplier of foreign tourists to Lee County.
County, where Dunedin (as well as St. Petersburg) is located, attracted
about triple the annual number of Canadians when compared to Lee ,
drawing 335,741 Canadians in 2012, including 117,694 in the spring
training months of February and March.
high number of Canadians did not translate to a boom at the Blue Jays
box office. Toronto drew 77,108 fans last spring training. The Minnesota
Twins drew 117,503 at 8,100-capacity Hammond Stadium, and the Red Sox
drew 151,713 in the inaugural season at 9,900-capacity JetBlue Park.
hope they do come down," said Lee County Commissioner John Manning, who
learned of the Toronto report from The News-Press. "I hope they don't
ask an exorbitant price to do it. We'd love to get somebody in that
park, I'll tell you that. We're all ears at this point."
Mielke, executive director of the Lee County Sports Authority, which is
tasked with luring sports tourism dollars to the area, was in
Tallahassee on Wednesday, in part to urge legislators to approve Gov.
Rick Scott's bill to spend $5 million a year on spring training
upgrades for teams threatening to leave Florida.
would be surprised if they looked at going anywhere else other than
Dunedin because they have such a history there," Mielke said of the Blue
Jays. "They have a great Canadian market."