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In what’s sure to be a disappointing, though perhaps inevitable, development for those who enjoy making a spring ritual of the trek to the quiet Florida city of Dunedin, or have specifically made the area home because of the Jays’ long-time presence at the former Grant Field, Tom Maloney of the Globe and Mail reports that the club is actively seeking out a new facility to house the club during Spring Training.

And unfortunately for the place that the Jays have called home for 37 years, and where Paul Beeston says “in a perfect world” they’d be able to find a way to stay, the situation is becoming untenable. Grant Field was renovated in 2002, though it’s hardly what you’d call a modern facility, with a bare bones structure that’s more BMO Field than it is the mini-Fenway the Red Sox have built in Fort Myers, or the Yankees’ Legends Field– now known as George Steinbrenner Field– in Tampa. The parking situation at Florida Auto Exchange is poor, and the amenities for fans are lacking, I’m told– the lone game I went to on my recent trip was a near-rainout, which significantly reduced the crowd and made for breezy beer purchases and bathroom trips.

The stadium doesn’t have a whole lot going on immediately around it– though there are some hidden Dunedin gems I’ll be writing about at some point over the next week or three– and Maloney writes that, once the big league club breaks camp and heads north, the High-A “minor-league Jays draw poorly in Dunedin.”

Still, there is a connection there, and Paul Beeston says that “in a perfect world” they’d be able to find a way to stay. But unless that perfect world means razing the school on the property adjacent to the park, it’s hard to see how that would work. ”Team operations are compromised by the logistics in Dunedin,” Maloney explains. “The stadium, with club offices, is separated from the Bobby Mattick minor-league training centre by about six kilometres, requiring players to be bussed back-and-forth.”

Media, coaches, and front office personnel also need to make this trek, and while Google Maps suggests it’s only ten minutes, traffic can make it worse, and while it may seem barely inconvenient, a twenty minute roundtrip just isn’t the same as being able to run off to a minor league game for a half inning, and come back to the main one, all within the same facility.

So… I get it. It’s just… weird. Maybe not Dodgers-in-Arizona weird, but weird. But… I don’t know, maybe fans of the Jays would like it? I can certainly see why some of the possibilities Maloney lays out in his piece would make sense. “There’s abundant land around Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie and the Mets would welcome an American League team in the area,” he says. “More revenue would be generated with an additional fan base in the area, and travel could be reduced.”

I dunno. Too late for MLB to just pick a city and have all the stadium pretty much concentrated there, like they do in the desert, huh? Because barring that it would seem to me that bus rides all over the place are going to have to continue being a fact of life, and there’s not a whole lot that can really be done about it. So… does it even matter that the Jays are in a less than ideal location? I guess that’s the question– is the Jays experience in Dunedin worth saving? I’d figure it could be a whole hell of a lot worse, but maybe I found the spareness of Grant Field a little too romantic, or wasn’t there long enough to be frustrated by either it or by the car rides to the minor league complex. I was just happy not to be freezing my balls off back here, mostly.

Comments (32)

  1. I’ve been to Dunedin and I like the fact that it’s not a state-of-the-art facility. That’s part of the charm of spring training. I get the logistics problems but I’d be sad to see them leave a place that’s been ingrained in Jays history since day one. Also, the fact that the Sox and Yanks have fancy ST digs is all a part of what makes them assholes.

  2. Oh crappy. I love Dunedin and Clearwater too for that matter. I find Dunedin to be cozy and maybe one of the draws for me was how accessible the park was from a fans perspective. I liked it because it wasn’t a large facility. I can see that from a managers, players perspective it isn’t ideal but for the determined Canadian baseball fan, it was a gem. The modern, sanitized fields in Clearwater for the Phillies and Steinbrenner field in Tampa for the Yankees just can’t have what Dunedin has. I understand the need to have the facilities but sometimes progress isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. It would be nice if they could, through an infrastructure upgrade(s), find a way to stay in Dunedin.

  3. That would be unfortunate. I always wanted to go down to Dunedin for ST.

  4. I vote they move to Naples…. because my folks have a condo there and I am a selfish person.

  5. no arizona right?

  6. I went down there for 3 games this time – and I have to say my experience was meh… It was cool that it was such a small facility – you could see all of the players really well. For a guy who watches most games from the 500s – that wasn’t an insignificant factor.

    Still, the washrooms are tiny meaning lineups every inning, and the town around the park is fairly small meaning it can be a pain for travelers to find accommodations etc.

    We stayed in Clearwater Beach and Tampa. Frankly it was close to both places – though in Tampa’s shitty “highway” traffic with stoplights it could take a long time to go even short distances. I would go back – now knowing some tricks to make things better – but if they moved it wouldn’t be all that disappointing to me.

  7. Never been to Dunedin even though i lived in FL for 3 years…..I know, I suck.

    I would like to see them closer to Orlando personally, maybe slide over to Lakeland, lots of land there, build a new park, but give it an old school look and feel to it, maybe make it look like the current park, but with the modern updates players and coaches seek. Maybe even put 4 fields together type deal, so you can play SS games at the same spot at the same time.

    Although, when you hear….in a perfect world blah blah…..sounds like they already have an idea in mind or motion, they just haven’t come out with it yet.

  8. I just got back from my first spring training trip. FAES has it’s charm, but once I visited Bright House (Phillies) and McKechnie (Pirates) I was ready to grab a sledgehammer and tear it down myself.
    Dunedin is a cool little city with a few great restaurants and an outstanding craft brew pub, but a new stadium is definitely needed. In an ideal world, we would build a new facility in Dunedin, but that’s probably not possible. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to go back there one last time before the Jays move.

    • I get the newness of Brighthouse Field, and I’m a fan of McKetchnie (Pirates) field, but that’s another old school field that isn’t that much better than Florida Auto Exchange Park. It’s actually older too!

      • You need to check out McKechnie Field again. They renovated it this year and it is fabulous. Boardwalk the whole way around the outfield. New concessions, bathrooms and a great Tiki bar. They made it big league and still kept the small park charm.

    • I like Bradenton too, and I also like Lakeland, and I must agree FAES need expanding (which doesn’t look possible) or for the Jays to relocate. Lakeland is nice, but I’d probably look around Orlando and partner with the Astros (they have a good enough park in Kissimmee, but not great) or the Nationals (I haven’t seen their current park, so I can’t opine there).

  9. It would be great if they came to Arizona, but… I’m not holding my breath.

  10. I was down there for the first time this year and enjoyed the smallness of the place. That said, I was at the same game as Stoeten, and as he mentioned, the park was half full at most. I could see all the things that seemed charming becoming annoying with the size of the crowd doubled.

    Interestingly (with respect to Ari’s comment), I was sitting beside a Phillies fan who told me he goes down to Fla every year. He hates the modern massive Phillies park and misses the quaint park they used to have, so now he prefers going to see the Jays in Dunedin.

    • FAES is a nice stadium. It’s great for watching games, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Having said that, I was there for two near sell-outs (Mar 1 and 2). the concourse is extremely cramped and there’s just not much there. Food and drink options are very limited. There’s a constant line to get into the bathroom and Jays shops, and it took 10 minutes to get out of the park at the end of the game.

      I think Bright House Field does a very good job of maintaining the small park atmosphere while providing modern amenities. Every seat is still close to the action and the concourse is wide open and well stocked. I love that the concourse wraps 360 degrees around the entire field so you can watch from anywhere. (Similarly, the new outfield boardwalk at McKechnie is amazing.) It also helps that at Bright House I was sitting second row, third baseline, very close to the Hooters ball girl…

      • Also, what makes it unique is the town of Dunedin. Great little town to walk around after the game, good restaurants and some great pubs that offer craft brews.

        Visiting Brighthouse (PHI) and Champion Field (ATL), I can see why the lure of getting a new state of the art park. Not to mention the more $$$$ the Jays wants.

        I hope they will be able to somehow stay in Dunedin if the Jays are insistent on getting a new park.

  11. So basically the Jays are looking for a city in Florida that will build them a new stadium or upgrade an existing one with taxpayer dollars?

  12. DO IT. You wont.

  13. The Oilers were exploring new homes recently, too. They’re probably bluffing for a better deal from Dunedin (along the lines of JToronto’s 11:30 comment above).

  14. Have these “antics” kept up? Does Dunedin want us gone just as much?

    http://www.sptimes.com/2003/03/09/news_pf/NorthPinellas/Once_again__Dunedin_b.shtml

  15. I hope the new ST stadium has a min-skydome, I mean Roger’s Centre, feel to it. LOL.

  16. Arizona is way better for ST. It has better weather, teams close together, and most important, it is closer to me.

  17. My dad used to say “in a perfect world” alot. It means the decisions already been made.

    • LOL. It’s like saying “if you were smart” (which by inference you aren’t), “in a perfect world” (which it isn’t)…

  18. Give us western Canadians a crumb and have “Canada’s team” go to AZ for ST.

  19. I have been at a few games this spring at Dunedin.The park as seen better days .
    When you have a big crowd there are long line ups everywhere.
    We where at Bright House Field and was impressed on the design

  20. The article mentions Pasco County as trying to lure the Ays for Spring Training. Never been there and no idea what traffic is like, but seems close enough to Dunedin for fans already anchored there in the winter.

    Wherever they go, is it too much to ask for moneybags Rogers to take the long-term view and invest in building and owning our own facility? Guess it is, even the Yankees new digs were entirely publicly financed. And the cherry on top is renaming it Steinbrenner field after the billionaire who didn’t pay a dime for it. Man, professional sports stadium financing is truly a bizarro world. But I digress…

    Anyway, if we’re being selfish, I’m all for Fort Myers (or Naples), as my folks live there.

  21. Ugh….that ugly 2:3 ratio Canadian flag again.

    Can we not at least have our official 1:2 ratio flag flying there? Maybe another Florida municipality will tug at us to grow our flag to its rightful epic proportion.

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