The Toronto Blue Jays could be one step closer to leaving their longtime spring training site in Dunedin, Florida.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Florida legislators proposed a plan with funding for a stadium to be shared by the Blue Jays and Houston Astros on the other side of the state in Palm Beach Gardens.
The Blue Jays have trained in Dunedin (A on the map below) since their inaugural season in 1977. Palm Beach Gardens (B on the map) is on the Eastern side of the state, relatively close to the spring sites of the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets.
The Blue Jays’ lease on Florida Auto Exchange Stadium expires in 2017, the Globe and Mail reported in March. Team president Paul Beeston said at the time that the Blue Jays will “assess” other options.
“We’ve been in Dunedin from the beginning and it hasn’t impeded us from being successful,” Beeston told the Globe. “Having said that, it’s not an ideal situation from the player-development perspective, with the separate complexes.”
Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is located far enough from the Blue Jays’ minor league facility that buses required to shuttle players and personnel back and forth.
Astros owner Jim Crane also owns a golf course in Palm City, which is approximately 50 km from Palm Beach Gardens.
State legislators agreed Monday to spend $3.3 million per year on new and existing baseball stadiums, the Associated Press reported. The funding would begin in 2015 and could help convince MLB teams to continue training in Florida, where they stimulate the local economy, instead of heading west to Arizona.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and Chicago White Sox have moved their spring sites from Florida to Arizona in recent years. Half of MLB’s 30 teams now train in Arizona.
Ritch Workman, the lead House negotiator on tax issues, said taxpayers benefit if MLB teams choose to train in Florida.
"Spring training does bring millions of tourists to our state in the off-season," he said, according to the AP. "They come stay in our hotels. They eat in our restaurants. It does have a significant impact."