Looks like some major changes are in the works for the Blue Jays’ facilities in Dunedin, Florida
With just about 120 days left until Opening day, many Blue Jays fans are gearing up to make the trek down to spring training in Dunedin, Florida. As spring training is the unofficial start to the baseball season, it is certainly a trek well worth it.
The Blue Jays have been using facilities in Dunedin, both a stadium and training facility a few miles away, since they became an expansion team in 1977. Throngs of fans have enjoyed the relaxed, open and up close baseball experience it provides.
The Blue Jays during spring training is an experience fans should experience. Watching warmups, lining up down the first base line in search of a picture, a handshake or a signed ball is completely commonplace and the players, excited about the coming season, very accommodating. It’s a great place to get up close to the beauty that is a baseball game. Added bonuses are that the people of Dunedin are friendly, it’s warm in February and the sun shines often.
This experience however has a time frame, and could change after this coming season if all goes according to plan. The time has come for an upgrade.
According to the Baseball Canada Network, The Blue Jays have approved designs to renovate the existing Dunedin facilities, both the stadium, and the Training complex located a 10 minute drive away. Due to be completed by Spring Training 2020 it is definitely a sleeker more professional look in store for the stadium. Done in the “Key West” style, the vibrant blue and crisp white will certainly erase the old school college ball feel the stadium exudes presently.
Wish lists are often followed by reality however, and the original goal of having the playing surface dimensions the same as the Rogers Centre had to be scaled back due to lack of space. Anyone who has been to the current stadium can attest to its snug fit in a neighborhood. A meaningful expansion is out of the question. The improvements to the stadium are aesthetic for the most part aimed at improving the fan experience. There will be additional seating added, making capacity rise from 6,500 to 8,500. One great improvement in the new design is the ability to see into the bullpen, a sight denied to fans this far.
The renovation budget, $81 million has approved $33.3 million for the stadium upgrades. The remaining $47.8 million will be spent on the Player Development Center and training facility renovations.
The renovated training facility, where both MLB and MiLB players will get the chance to train together, will hopefully foster some mentorships among players. Named the Bobby Mattick Training Center at Englebert Complex after both the 1980 Blue Jays manager (Mattick), and the Mayor of Dunedin at the time (Cecil Englebert) credited for luring the Blue Jays to town, it’s a 19 minute drive from Dunedin Stadium.
If there is a lack of space at the stadium, it can be found at the Blue Jays Training facility, which boasts 23 acres of hitting cages, fields, training facilities and team offices. There is also the added space due to the adjoining fields from another city owned complex, the Louis A. Vanech Recreation Complex being added to the renovated complex.
While the City will be using the existing clubhouse and offices, a new clubhouse will be built to house both MLB and MiLB affiliates surrounded by 5 playing fields, and assorted training areas. They are also including a Blue Jays Sports Science Centre, which will allow players year-round access to rehabilitation facilities.
With all these renovations set to be completed in 2020, this coming spring training might be Blue Jays fans last chance to experience favourite players in a college ball atmosphere. The addition of a new boardwalk inside the stadium circling the field alone will change the experience. It’s not going to be old school anymore. It might lose some of the up close and personal. Jerry Howarth won’t be roaming the concourse. It will be different, but it will still be Blue Jays baseball. In Florida. In the sun. In February.
Featured Image Credit: C Stem
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.