The Toronto Blue Jays are resolved to relocate their spring training base to a new home in Palm Beach Gardens, in the southeastern part of Florida.
They would leave Dunedin, their spring site since the club’s inception in 1977, when the current lease expires in 2017, if not sooner.
The club is in discussions with the Houston Astros to share a new compound in Palm Beach Gardens on vacant land adjacent to Interstate 95.
The state has already approved funding, and the clubs await the city and county to approve matching funding.
“It’s an ideal situation,” Jays chief executive officer Paul Beeston said, citing proximity to an airport, quality of the surrounding community and easy driving distance to play the St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins and New York Mets.
From Palm Beach Gardens, it would take little more than two hours across Alligator Alley (Interstate 75) to reach the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins on the west coast of Florida, in Fort Myers. The Atlanta Braves, in Orlando, would also be a feasible destination using the Florida Turnpike.
The Cardinals and Marlins share a facility in a situation much like the Blue Jays envision. They would jointly use shared-stadium and ticket operations with the Astros. Otherwise, there would be separate offices, clubhouses and practice diamonds.
“We want more state-of-the-art and [for the practice areas] to be together,” Beeston said Friday.
In Dunedin, a small town located west of Tampa, the stadium is separated from the minor-league facility and practice diamonds by a 10-minute drive.
Dunedin Mayor David Eggers is all but resigned to losing the Blue Jays, because the city lacks enough land to combine the operations.
The Jays have examined all options in Dunedin. They also considered, and rejected for now, the idea of sharing the Philadelphia Phillies facility in adjacent Clearwater.
An as-yet undetermined capital cost amount would be required from the Blue Jays to make Palm Beach Gardens work.
If the numbers don’t add up, Beeston said the club will re-examine other options, including Pinellas County, where Dunedin is located, and possible the Fort Myers/Naples area.
The Washington Nationals are also looking to move their spring training home from central Florida.