Dunedin Stadium is spring home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
DUNEDIN – They play both the United States and Canadian national anthems before each game at Dunedin Stadium. The concession stand religiously sells Labatt Blue on tap. It’s symbolic of the long partnership between the city of Dunedin and Toronto Blue Jays that dates back to 1977.
More than three decades of working together amicably has kept the American League East team in Dunedin each year for spring training and the prospects are very good for the trend to continue.
“It’s always been a team effort between the city and Blue Jays,” said Blue Jays senior consultant Ken Carson who served as team trainer in the 1970s and later as traveling secretary.
“We work well together,” said Dunedin Assistant City Manager Harry Gross. “We’ve always looked at our arrangement as a partnership. When they’ve wanted renovations (to the stadium) they’ve always been pretty good about sitting down and working with us.”
The partnership began 32 years ago when the Blue Jays were formed as an American League expansion team and needed a spring training site in Florida.
Labatt Brewery Co. owned the ball club and team president Peter Bavasi, along with Paul Beeston, vice president of business operations; and Pat Gillick, vice president of baseball operations; needed a spring home quickly.
“The city was really aggressive in getting us to come here,” said Carson. “David Ponder with the chamber (of commerce) and (former mayor) Cecil Englebert went up to Toronto to do a presentation.”
Bavasi, Beeston and Gillick came down to look over the area and quickly decided to make Dunedin the Blue Jays’ spring home.
The 5,500-seat ball park, now known as Dunedin Stadium, has a long history at 350 Douglas Ave.
Originally built in the 1930s, it was simply known as The Athletic Field and at some point in the 1940s it became Grant Field, named after a mayor who was in office at the time.
In 1954, concrete grandstands were added, bringing the seating capacity to 3,400.
When the Blue Jays arrived in 1977, additional bleacher seats were added.
However, Grant Field was not on the cutting edge of other spring training stadiums in the 1980s. As a result, the city and Blue Jays reached an agreement on building a covered grandstand in 1989 that increased seating to 6,200.
Eleven years later, the city completed additional renovations to the stadium and constructed the Cecil B. Englebert Training Complex at 1700 Solon Ave.
The $14 million project was funded by $7 million in state money, $3 million in Pinellas County tourist tax funds and $4 million that was split between the Blue Jays and the city.
The city sold stadium naming rights to Knology for five years but this year the cable television company opted out of the deal and the name went back to Dunedin Stadium.
This summer it will again serve as home to the Florida State League’s Dunedin Blue Jays.