A second home is a luxury, no doubt. But every once in a while, it’s going to require some upkeep.
Yesterday’s opening pitch against the Atlanta Braves marked the forty third season that the Toronto Blue Jays have made Dunedin, Fla, their spring training home. (And yes, the Jays won.) And though the years had helped to form a strong relationship between the team and the city, the facilities were starting to show (very) obvious signs of wear.
So, in 2017, city and team officials came to terms on a proposal that would keep the bluebirds nesting in Dunedin for another twenty-five years. The plan was a bold one, with extensive renovations to the stadium and training sites. But it was also a historic one, distinguishing the Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin as the only major league pairing to partner from the team’s founding up until the present day.
Once the deal was struck, planning began in earnest, with architecture firm Populous (Citizens Bank Park, Yankee Stadium) at the helm. A construction schedule was approved and over 100 million dollars in funding was raised between the Jays, the City of Dunedin, the State of Florida and Pinellas County tourist development tax money.
So, what does that kind of money buy a team and its rabid fan base?
For the players, the changes are extensive. Three new fields, a multitude of batting cages and gang mounds, a 110,000 square foot clubhouse that includes a state-of-the-art weight room, new training rooms, sports labs, fuel bars, a plunge pool and a barber.
The barber is key.
And for the fans – the diehards who trek south to catch an early glimpse and the native Floridians who’ve come to love the boys in blue – the new stadium is a spectator’s dream.
Three thousand new seats were added along the left field line and a grandstand and bar were built in place of an old bullpen. An impressive new boardwalk encircles the entire stadium, allowing 360-degree access. And new air-conditioned bar facilities and an outdoor bar in right field are a welcome relief from the heat.
Young Jays fans will love the Junior Jays Zone in the left field concourse and the modern new scoreboard.
And with a complete overhaul of washroom facilities, concession stands and suites, the new stadium is far more user-friendly.
The renovation appears to be a real success, fulfilling so many of the needs of both Jays fans and players. It’s no wonder that Blue Jays President, Mark Shapiro, called the new digs, “The best all-around facility in Major League Baseball.”
Now all they need are some more wins.