Blue Jays Spring Training Stadium Renovations Near Completion.

I’m almost teary-eyed as I write this. Today I got to take a look at the inside of the newly christened TD Ballpark here in Dunedin, Florida.

Why? I’ve been on the Dunedin Stadium Advisory Committee for six years. When we started, we didn’t even know if the Jays would stay in the only spring training home they ever had. They’ve been here since 1977 and they’ve become part of the fabric of our little coastal town.

The last renovation was in the 1990s and the Stadium was looking a little dog-eared. No video board, small bathrooms, it was defiantly showing its age.

I was there when the city made their desire known that we wanted the Jays to stay, when the Mayor, Julie Ward Bujalski was overwhelmingly elected based on her “Keep the Jays” agenda. I sat through meetings where all that could be said was, “negotiations are ongoing” due to confidentiality agreements. I was at the meetings showing the “blue sky” plans, environmental impact and traffic studies, I appeared before the City Commission, spoke before them voicing my support and I was there the night when all the agreements were signed. It’s been a long, hard road that is finally coming to an end.

Today was the last of the “regular” status meetings where we were allowed to go out on the office balcony overlooking the stadium. As I looked at the stadium bowl I got teary. It was quite emotional seeing it so close to being finished.

The boardwalk, which will be known as the Orange Belt, an homage to the local train line that once took the oranges from the groves that once were located where the stadium now stands to points north, is just needing a few final touches. The bar on the third base side just needs the glass windows and finishing. The open air bar at right field has its roof. Most of the new seats WITH CUPHOLDERS are in. The roof is on the new elevator, giving it a coastal design. Everything inside the concrete, the wiring the plumbing is all new. New (and more) bathrooms and concessions. Off behind the bar is the area that will have the permit any barbecue restaurant and children’s play area. The team store will be accessible from outside the stadium so that you can purchase souvenirs as gear if you’re here on a non-game day (something that wasn’t possible before.)

The capacity has gone from 5,000 to nearly 8,000 (or more-still to be determined).

I am so flabbergasted, gobsmacked and twitterpated.

I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. I’m so happy. I’m including some stills and will have a video with bits from the outside as well. I wanted to post this while I was feeling “all the feels”.

Work is beginning for the Jays in Dunedin

Living here in Dunedin, I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the stadium as we anxiously await the beginning of renovations. Yesterday a dumpster was delivered near the Boxoffice, today when I drove by all the doors to the suites/press box were wide open and they looked emptied.

The funny thing was a truck pulled out of the lot full of what looked to be diamond dry or mound materials and a large box. It was manned by Jays staff and it looked like they were delivering supplies to Jack Russell Stadium only two miles away.

The Jays opening “home” game will be at Spectrum Field while the second game will be at Jack Russell.

Rumor around town is there will be an official ground breaking for the renovations in the next week or two. I’ll update as soon as I get confirmation.

What Does it Take For A Warning to be Issued? Jays’ Pitchers Take Shots at Phils

What does it take for a warning to be issued? Does someone have to be permanently injured or disfigured? Don’t get me wrong, I live in Dunedin so I do support the Jays, but I’m seriously reconsidering that after what I’ve seen in the last two games.

Is it because of Harper? The Jays didn’t play like that the first game–which was the day the Phillies signed Harper.

Then during Harper’s debut, the brush-backs started. First, Jean Segura:

Jean Segura barely dodges a pitch

Then during Rhys Hoskins’ second at bat, his first after his 2-run homer, he was nearly got nailed in the face:

Rhys Hoskins nearly hit in the head by a pitch

Rhys Hoskins nearly hit in the head by a pitch

Today, Harper was nailed in the ankle. See Harper getting hit HERE.

Harper after getting hit (Photo courtesy of Sports Center)

I know that after Hoskins was nearly decapitated no warning was issued…and not today after Harper got hit.

After the game a steaming Hoskins said he Elias ready to back up Harper if he would have charged the mound.

I’ll be at the last matchup VS the Jays next week. Hopefully, there won’t be a repeat of this kind of behavior.

Toronto Blue Jays Close Spring Training Facility to Fans as Construction Begins

I’ve lived here in Dunedin, Florida, the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays for just over six years. I’ve been involved with a committee that works with the Jays as well as the City of Dunedin for over four years.

Welcome to Blue Jays Spring Training

This week begins the first step to the “end of the road” on the project that has encompassed keeping the Toronto Blue Jays here in Dunedin as well as finding a way to build them a complex that would make them happy. Sometime in the next week or so, shovels will hit the ground at the training complex on Solon. Due to the impending construction, the Bobby Mattick Training complex is closed to the public for both major league and minor league spring training. Visitors to the area may be able to watch some training at the downtown stadium on days where the team is away and the Jays store is open-Monday through Friday 10-3 and Saturday 10-2.

Meanwhile, in downtown, the stadium will operate as per usual. You can see the Jays’ schedule HERE. Practically the day after the team goes north, the stadium will close to the public and the renovations to the stadium will begin.

Both the training complex as well as the stadium are following an aggressive construction schedule and are expected to be open for the 2020 season. (Barring delays for weather and/or hurricanes. Pray for a calm hurricane season.)

For those who are fans of the Dunedin Blue Jays, the Jays’ Florida State League Team, it is expected that they will be playing this summer in the former Phillies’ home, Jack Russell Stadium. Details on this should be finalized in the next week or so.

Below I am linking to articles that will show the plans for the stadium and complex as well as some of the articles I’ve done over the years dealing with trying to get the Jays to stay as well as the process of getting the finances in order:

Tampa Bay Times Article with Pictures of the New Stadium and Training Complex

2018 Article Outlining Finalizing the Financing for the Stadium Renovations

2017 City Council Meeting Approving the Jays Deal

2016 Article Outlining Citizen Involvement getting Jays to Stay (Includes a picture of me speaking before Dunedin City Council)

 

 

 

It’s a Done Deal-Financing in place for New Blue Jays Spring Training Complex in Dunedin

Image by Populous

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you will know that I have been invested in the Blue Jays staying in their spring-training home of Dunedin, Florida. I live only a few blocks from the stadium and have served on the Dunedin Stadium Committee for more than four years. I have sat through numerous meetings, city meetings, hearings and spoken before city council-all so I can say:

It’s finally done!

It’s been a long road and the Jays mean a lot to the city of Duneden, this is the only spring-training home they’ve ever known-they’ve been here for 42 years. By the time this deal is done they’ll be here another 25. They’re the only team in major league baseball who hasn’t moved and they won’t be moving for a long, long time.

The city council voted last night and the county voted their approval this morning.

You can read an article outlining the details of the deal HERE and watch the city council meeting HERE.

Former Blue Jay and Phillie Roy Halladay Dies In Plane Crash-Services Announced

I’m crushed. Roy Halladay has always been a favorite of mine. Quiet, but always seemingly approachable. Once he was retired he lived in the Clearwater area and it wasn’t unheard of someone saying they’d seen him around town.

Last time I saw him in person was at the end of the season this year. He and his wife were at a Threshers game and I so wanted to say hi, then I saw he was hanging out with his friends and I respected his privacy so I didn’t.

I wish I had told him how much I enjoyed watching him pitch and how I appreciated what he does for the community. You see, last summer, he donated a bunch of memorabilia to the local police who have a charity softball game and auction every year. I was lucky enough to win Doc’s game used and autographed glove as well as a plaque commemorating his perfect game that was also signed.

Until I won the glove I had a “no memorabilia in the living room” rule, which promptly went out the window. I didn’t even get home from the game before I had gone out to Amazon and bought a glass case for the glove. It sits proudly on my piano with a ball he signed for me in Spring Training along will balls signed by Carlos Ruiz, Jim Bunning, Don Larson and Yogi Berra.

While I was working on this the family released a notice to public that included:

A celebration of Halladay’s life will be held Nov. 14 at 4 p.m. at Spectrum Field in Clearwater. The service is open to the public.

My prayers go out to the family and friends of a kind, hardworking guy who was taken much too soon.

Rest In Peace, Doc.

The Jays Will Stay! Dunedin City Council Unanimously Approves Deal to Improve Facilities For Jays 

Four long years. Tonight was the culmination of four years work to create a a deal that was fair and affordable that would keep the Toronto Blue Jays Spring training home here in Dunedin.

Dunedin isn’t a big city. There’s only 35,000 people in town. We don’t have high rise hotels on the beach or a shopping mall. Our  beach is a state park, our “mall” is a string of mom and pop shops on a quaint Main Street. The Jays are a big part of what brings tourists into our little hamlet just north of Clearwater.

We are the only spring training home the Jays have ever had. 40 Years. Canadian fans have bought property to come here year after year to see “Canada’s Team”.

How could such a small town provide world class year round facilities? 

It took 4 years of negotiations but we have a deal. Both sides gave a little, both sides walk away winners.

The city will contribute $5.6 million, the State of Florida $13.7, Pinellas County’s “Bed head tax” (a tax on hotel rooms that the revenues generated can be used ONLY for tourism projects) $46 million with the team the remaining $20 million.

We could get into the economics of the tourism that spring training brings in (more than $90 million county-wide) or how just the announcers saying “Dunedin” during spring training broadcasts is worth $5 million alone…

But having the Jays here is more than that.

It’s how most kids see their first MLB baseball game right in town, it’s how the Jays have charity bowling games in summer, or how they let the local high school baseball team play on their major league caliber fields or how the Jays help the little league have first class fields to play on.

It’s what has been termed a “40 year marriage” and tonight we renewed those vows for at least another 25 years. 

It was personal for me. I found my house because I came here to go to a Phillies and Jays game and we got lost. We walked through downtown Dunedin and on to the stadium…on the way we fell in love. We’ve been here a little over five years. I’ve been on the Stadium Committee over four years having been appointed by the former mayor.

It’s been a long road. Tonight was the beginning of the end of that long road. We still have a few more steps to go, but the highest hurdle has been jumped and I am relieved.

Dunedin City Council with Mayor Julie Ward Bujowski holding the signed approval.