Blue Jays: Player development complex and stadium coming along nicely

DUNEDIN, FLORIDA - MARCH 06: A general view of Dunedin Stadium during the Grapefruit League spring training game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies on March 06, 2019 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
DUNEDIN, FLORIDA - MARCH 06: A general view of Dunedin Stadium during the Grapefruit League spring training game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Philadelphia Phillies on March 06, 2019 in Dunedin, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

To begin the 2019 season, the Toronto Blue Jays began renovations to the stadium as well the player development facility in hopes of having the new areas ready for 2020 spring training.

The Toronto Blue Jays having been using the city of Dunedin, Florida as their spring training facility since their inauguration in the MLB in 1977. An agreement that has spanned over four decades, players within the Blue Jays organization use this facility for spring training, rehabbing injuries during the regular season, or hosting the Class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays regular season.

Since being built in 1977, the facility and the stadium has not undergone any major renovations or upgrades, and was behind the ball when it came to modern updates and player comfort. This was something the Blue Jays organization felt was hindering their development of the teams top prospects as well as the overall fan experience when watching the games at stadium.

In early 2019, the Toronto Blue Jays with the city of Dunedin, Pinellas County, and the state of Florida reached a 25 year lease agreement to keep the organizations facility in the same location. With this agreement, president Mark Shapiro was able to raise some funds (both internally and externally) and put over $80 million dollars into renovating the stadium and player facilities to become more modernized and fan friendly.

While both projects are currently not complete as of yet, they are both slated to be open and ready for spring training in 2020.

For the 2019 season, the Dunedin Blue Jays were unable to play in their own home ball park and were forced to play at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium in Clearwater, as well as using a few opponents fields as ‘home’ games rather than be the credited ‘visiting’ team due to the renovations.

When completed, the stadium in Dunedin will be called TD Ballpark as per a five year sponsorship agreement reached between the Blue Jays organization and the financial institution.

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There will be 3000 seats added to the stadium, as well as a boardwalk in the outfield to give fans more viewing areas and access around the entire perimeter of the stadium. There will also be two bars added to the outskirts of the seating area, one with air conditioning along the third base line and an outdoor bar located in right field (both within the stadium).

All of the concessions, bathrooms, fan shops and suites will also be upgraded, making the stadium more fan accessible and modernized during spring training and through the Class A Advanced season.

The players complex and training centre will be updated to become approximately 3x bigger, more technologically advanced, and geared towards high performance and player development.

There will be a grand total of 6 full fields when construction is done, with 1 of those fields being made of synthetic turf like the Rogers Centre. There will also be a half field, 5-bay and 7-bay batting cages, and 2 sets of 10 pack mounds for pitching and player development. A turfed and covered agility field will also be built to allow players to train during inclement weather throughout the year.

The administrative offices and conferences rooms will also be added/upgraded, and player amenities will drastically improve with the addition of a 10,000 sq. ft weight room, 8 locker rooms, pool, sauna, classrooms, and multiple sport labs and fuel bars for proper nutrition and hydration. This will benefit the players during spring training, as well as any players that need to rehab from injuries in a monitored environment. There is even a dedicated room for a barber that players can utilize.

These upgrades were necessary and needed, given that the previous weight room could only fit a max of 20 people, as well as the outdated fields and agility areas needing some improved TLC. This required the Blue Jays to do their research, visiting other MLB training facilities as well as researching training facilities of other professional sports teams in the NFL, NBA, and even the English Premier League.

With these renovations, the facility in Dunedin will now be fully functionally and able to be utilized throughout the entire year for player development and rehabilitation. This allows the organization to monitor their top prospects or injured regulars to ensure everything is going according to plan.

To summarize, being a Toronto Blue Jays player just got a whole lot better when it comes to spending spring training down in sunny Florida. Through the increased and improved player development complex and stadium, the organizations top talent will benefit from improved facilities as well as the Blue Jays fanbase satisfaction with the improvements of the stadium.

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