Big news in Tampa Bay baseball: The St. Pete City Council approved the Memorandum of Understanding allowing the Rays to look for a Tampa Bay area location in which to build a new stadium. That’s great news as it could lead to a new stadium, higher attendance, increased revenue for the team, and the ability to compete at the same financial level as the rest of Major League Baseball.
We know the Trop is the worst location in Major League Baseball. But a new Rays stadium – wherever it may be – is years away.
Meanwhile, John Lott of Toronto’s National Post wrote a very interesting piece on the ongoing negotiations between the City of Dunedin and the Toronto Blue Jays. According to Lott, Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro stated that a decision on whether the Blue Jays will be staying in Dunedin could come as early as this summer.
At the moment, the Jays prefer to keep their spring-training complex in Dunedin, Fla., Mark Shapiro says. But if Dunedin cannot deliver “a state-of-the-art, top notch facility,” he says, the club could decide by this summer to move elsewhere.
Lott also mentions the Dunedin claim that the Blue Jays have provided a boost to the local economy every spring.
city officials are eager to keep the Jays, who have provided an annual boost to the local economy for four decades
Unfortunately, the only example of Spring Training’s impact on Dunedin is flimsy at best, according to Noah Pransky.
A 2013 Blue Jays spring training economic impact report – commissioned by the City of Dunedin, which is trying to get county funds to upgrade the Jays’ facilities – claimed $80 million in annual economic impact.
However, the report uses questionable methods to get to that number, including trying to take responsibility for the spending of 25,000 out-of-state visitors who acknowledged they were in Florida primarily for something other than baseball.
Then there is the negative effect locals from Toronto have when they spend money on Blue Jays Spring Training and not on Blue Jays vs Rays games at Tropicana Field, which is only 21.7 miles and 35 minutes away.
How the City of Dunedin would pay for “state-of-the-art” upgrades is also not mentioned, although Lott assumes “Dunedin taxpayers would be expected to cover part of the costs”. What he does not mention, however, is that cost will probably come from county funds. The same county funds and taxpayers who might have to pay for a new Rays stadium. Although Florida Auto Exchange Stadium upgrades would be cheaper, what do you think the Pinellas populace would rather spend their money on?
On twitter, Lott did little to promote Dunedin as the right place for the Blue Jays.
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) January 13, 2016
If the Blue Jays left Dunedin, there will be open facilities in Kissimmee and Brevard County, where the Astros and Nationals are departing from, respectively. Both of those teams are expected to begin training in their new facility in West Palm Beach in 2017 – the Jays possible final year in Dunedin.
I don’t believe the Florida governor would let another team leave for Arizona, so the Blue Jays will probably stay in the state, but where is the big question. I also don’t think the Rays will leave the region, but they too face the question of where.
What we do know is that for both teams, the status quo is not good enough.
Things are about to get very interesting in the Tampa Bay baseball market.