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Shapiro: Time for new Jays spring facility

Toronto Blue JaysNew Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro is making his mark on the team in various ways, and one new project is emerging: Finding the team a new spring-training facility.

The team’s lease at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and Bobby Mattick Complex ends in 2017, which means the team has to begin work soon on planning a new facility if something is to open in 2018. Former team president Paul Beeston was at one time partnering with Jim Crane and the Houston Astros on a new Palm Beach County facility, but that effort ended with opposition arose regarding the ballpark site. Crane and crew regrouped and entered into a partnership with the Washington Nationals, setting on a West Palm Beach facility opening in 2017.

This left the Jays on the sidelines, talking with Dunedin about a new facility elsewhere in the city, but Shapiro is reportedly revisiting the issue, per John Lott of the National Post. That the Jays have one of the worst spring-training facilities isn’t debatable: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium provides a poor fan experience (no shade, no upscale amenities, cramped quarters, limited parking), and the Bobby Mattick Complex is located several miles from the ballpark, requiring the team to shuttle players back and forth. From Lott:

When Mark Shapiro was asked what he wants in a spring-training facility, he did not sound like he was talking about Dunedin, Fla.

The Dunedin facility is a far cry from cutting-edge. And one of its main drawbacks is that the main stadium and the minor-league complex are more than six kilometres apart. When 60 to 70 players arrive for the opening of camp in February, they ride buses to the multi-field Bobby Mattick Complex every day. That shuttle runs for several weeks until the Jays begin their exhibition schedule.

Most modern spring facilities surround the main stadium – typically, a minor-league park – with multiple diamonds. But in Dunedin, there is no space to expand. Streets lie on two sides of the stadium. A school and library sit on the other two.

RELATED STORIES: Dunedin, Blue Jays continue spring training talks; Dunedin focuses on a new Blue Jays spring training site; Blue Jays: Let’s price out spring-training upgrades in Dunedin; Could Blue Jays bail on Astros spring-training plans?

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