Dunedin officials have unveiled plans for renovations to Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
We have more about the upgrades on our sister site, Spring Training Online, but this is the first big reveal from an $81 million proposal to keep the Blue Jays’ spring training operations in Dunedin. Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is at the center of this plan, as it would be significantly overhauled in an effort to revamp the fan experience.
Populous has proposed a concept that will add 3,000 seats to the ballpark, while incorporating fan amenities that have become increasingly common at Grapefruit League facilities. More from the Tampa Bay Times:
“The stadium has great bones, and I think we can confidently tell you that we can add to that to enhance it,” said Populous representative Mike Sabatini. “We want to create a unique environment to enhance fan experience.”
The plans show a tiki hut bar in right-center field, lawn seating along the third baseline, several drink rails, lounge and shaded spots, beach huts and other “destination” seating. The plans also include several breezeways, so air can flow in and out of the stadium to keep it cool, a year-round team store and a more welcoming entrance….
The other half of the proposed project involves building a new training clubhouse at the team’s current training facility site at the Englebert Complex on Solon Avenue. In place of renderings, team officials at the meeting showed pictures of training facilities used by other major league teams alongside what the Blue Jays currently have — and there was a stark difference.
That proposal follows similar renovations that have taken place across Florida, including projects at Port Charlotte’s Charlotte Sports Park and Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium. However, the landlocked nature of Florida Auto Exchange Stadium and limited availability of land in Dunedin rules out the possibility of building both a ballpark and a training complex on the same site, which is why the Blue Jays and local officials are instead focusing on renovations to the ballpark and the existing Englebert Complex.
As was noted upon a 2015 visit, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is outdated in comparison to other spring training facilities, but offers some advantages. The seating bowl offers good sight lines–something that seems to have been kept in mind in the renovation concept—and the location is convenient to downtown Dunedin and the Pinellas Trail. A video of the renovation is presented below:
The main task for Dunedin is lining up funding, with the city certain to lobby for contributions from Pinellas County and the State of Florida. Renovations would be completed by the spring of 2019. Aside from hosting Blue Jays’ spring training, Florida Auto Exchange Stadium serves as the home of the Dunedin Blue Jays (High A; Florida State League).
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