The Toronto Blue Jays, reportedly exploring relocating its Spring Training facilities from Dunedin, have retained uber lobbyist Brian Ballard, state registration forms show.
The Blue Jays’ lease at Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin is set to expire in 2017, according to a report by The Globe and Mail, and Blue Jays officials are using that time frame to explore new spring training locations.
“We’ve been in Dunedin from the beginning [in 1977] and it hasn’t impeded us from being successful,” said Blue Jays president Paul Beeston. “Having said that, it’s not an ideal situation from the player-development perspective, with the separate complexes.”
The Globe and Mail report said possible new locations include Naples, Vero Beach, Fort Myers, Palm City, Daytona Beach or even Pasco County.
Dunedin city officials, concerned about the possibility of the Blue Jays leaving town, recently discussed planning a trip to Canada to help strengthen ties with the franchise.
This is the second MLB club in as many months to hire Ballard Partners to advocate for them.
“The Blue Jays are interested in creating a vibrant Spring Training environment,” said Ballard. “We look forward to being part of that process.”
In Tallahassee, the wheels are already turning to produce more cash to seal deals on ballparks like the one the Blue Jays may want.
In an amendment to a larger economic incentives bill, a Senate budget subcommittee voted last month to offer cash for upgrading or building spring training facilities. Stadiums that host one team could apply for up to $20 million over a 30-year span. Facilities with two teams could receive $40 million. Local governments would have to match the state money, and payouts would start in 2015-16.
The amendment by Sens. Jack Latvala and Kelli Stargel is also in line with Gov. Rick Scott’s push to keep spring training teams from leaving Florida for Arizona.
“I think the Governor (Scott) recognizes the importance of stabilizing spring training on the east coast of Florida and also realizes the impact of what another two-team facility would have there,” Kibbe said. “It would create a spring training hub in the Palm Beach area if there were four teams located there. And, I think, everyone would agree that fans from all over the country – fans from many different teams – would fly into Palm Beach to watch teams come in and out of that area playing against those four teams.”
Material from Dunedin Patch, the Globe and Mai, and Scripps Howard was used in this post.