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Toronto Blue Jays catchers J.P. Arencibia, Josh Thole and Henry Blanco talk to manager John Gibbons before infield drills at the team's MLB baseball spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida February 21, 2013. (FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS)
Toronto Blue Jays catchers J.P. Arencibia, Josh Thole and Henry Blanco talk to manager John Gibbons before infield drills at the team's MLB baseball spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida February 21, 2013. (FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS)

Blue Jays discussing upgrades to Dunedin spring training facility Add to ...

Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro met with Dunedin officials Monday night regarding proposed upgrades to the club’s spring-training facility that would help keep the franchise in the only spring home it’s ever known.

Toronto has conducted spring training in Dunedin, Fla., since its inception in 1977.

“In reality, I think it was more symbolic in nature than actually a constructive step but it was a first step,” Shapiro said during a conference call Tuesday. “It afforded the opportunity to talk about what’s most important to us in a spring-training facility moving forward.

“Everything so far has been extremely positive. I’ve been optimistic and have a positive outlook but I also would think we’re a long way from expressing it with certainty . . . there’s the reality that we have a long way to go.”

The Blue Jays would like their current spring home to be upgraded into a state-of-the-art, year-round facility. Shapiro wouldn’t provide financial details or discuss time frames but did say ideally the Jays would like to secure a 25-year lease at a revamped spring home.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday the Jays, city, county and state will partner to do about US$81-million in renovations and rebuilds. In return, the baseball team would agree to remain in Dunedin for 25 more years.

According to the news paper, Pinellas County would fund more than half the project, roughly $46 million. It would come from Tourist Development Council bed tax dollars raised through a six per cent tax allocated to marketing and capital undertakings.

The Jays would provide about $15.7 million with the state kicking in approximately $13.6 million and the city the remaining $5.6 million.

While he wouldn’t divulge specific figures, Shapiro did provide a similar breakdown during Tuesday’s call.

“The largest burden would be taken on by the county,” Shapiro said. “We would be second and then the state would be similar to us and the city would, obviously, be a partner both from a geographic perspective giving us a little more land and would also contribute a smaller amount.

“It’s just a proposal but we do feel good that it’s founded, it’s rational and it’s fair.”

Toronto’s current lease deal expires after next season but the Times said the city hopes to have the project completed by the spring of 2019. That’s what Shapiro is hoping for as well.

“You can sit here with complete clarity know that we’re not going to be in a new facility in ‘17,” Shapiro said. “There’ll be some point during next year that we’ll have to get started or know that it’s not going to be ‘18 either . . . certainly before ‘19 would be my hope.

“The tone we tried to strike (Monday night) was one of understanding that we all have to compromise some and a partnership is going to be key to getting it done. In this case the partnership is the Blue Jays, city, county and state. (This) was the first step in asking the city commission to approve our efforts to move forward with funding proposals to both the state and county.”

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