Blue Jays nearing Spring Training site move
Club closing in on deal with Astros at Palm Beach Gardens complex
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays appear to be closing in on a deal that would change the location of their Spring Training complex to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Toronto would share the facility with the Astros and, according to Houston owner Jim Crane, the process is "95 percent" complete. The deal has been in the works for several months and the two sides are now waiting for a final vote by the city.
The Blue Jays have yet to confirm the news, but a source inside the organization indicated the report was not inaccurate. Crane went a step further by publicly saying that Toronto and Houston are ready to make the move.
"The Blue Jays have committed and signed a letter of intent, so we're ready to move forward," Crane said. "That thing should be buttoned up hopefully by the end of October. We'll get that stadium built and it will be a fabulous new facility in Palm Beach Gardens."
The Astros have been working for months on the deal with the city and the state of Florida, which Crane says has already approved funds to keep both teams in-state. The earliest the Blue Jays and Astros could open their new spring facility is 2016.
Toronto's Spring Training complex has been located in Dunedin, Fla., since the club's inception in 1977. The Blue Jays signed a lease through 2017, but it's believed the agreement could be bought out and terminated early if Toronto decided to switch locations.
The Blue Jays entered into negotiations with the Astros in an attempt to upgrade their current facility. The Florida Auto Exchange Stadium where the club plays its Spring Training games is outdated and in desperate need of a costly renovation.
The other problem was that the stadium is not located on the same property as the Minor League complex. The two areas are separated by a 10-minute drive and require the players to dress in one spot before jumping on a bus and make the commute during the early days of Spring Training.
The proposed new facility, which would be located along Interstate 95 near PGA Boulevard, would put five teams on Florida's east coast for the spring. The Cardinals and Marlins share a facility in nearby Jupiter, and the Mets are just up the interstate in Port St. Lucie.
Crane said architects are already working on a design, which would have to be approved by both teams.
"These new facilities have gotten pretty sophisticated, so we're going to make sure we've got everything they need there," Crane said. "We'll get [manager] Bo [Porter] and [general manger] Jeff [Luhnow] involved in that design. We've also looked at other ones in Arizona and Florida, so we've studied all the good ones. We'll kind of emulate those models."
In April, the Florida legislature approved $50 million in incentives for the Astros and Blue Jays to build a new Spring Training complex. The South Florida Business Journal reported then that the money would be paid out over the course of 37 1/2 years.
"The money's available, both teams are committed and we've just got to get it inked up," Crane said.