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Blue Jays officially exploring possibility of leaving Dunedin

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The possibility of the Blue Jays leaving their spring training facility away from Dunedin and moving, along with the Houston Astros, to a new facility in Palm Beach Gardens has been one of the most poorly-kept secret surrounding the organization this year--mostly because a lot of the news have been coming out of Houston's front office.

Even in spring training, there were reports about the Blue Jays trying to move out of their aging complex in Dunedin, the club's training facility since their founding in 1977. In the summer, a report out of Houston first confirmed that the clubs in Toronto and Houston were working together to build a brand new complex in Palm Beach Gardens, on the other side of the Florida peninsula.

On Monday, Astros owner Jim Crane spoke with Brian McTaggart of and revealed that the "Blue Jays have committed and signed a letter of intent" to leave Dunedin. This morning, Sportsnet's Shi Davidi confirmed with Paul Beeston that the club had indeed signed the letter. Beeston was quoted downplaying the letter, saying that they were just "exploring the possibility" and that they "expect to live up to their lease," which expires after the 2017 season. In July, Beeston said that moving to Palm Beach Gardens was just "one of the options."

It seems to me that, despite what Beeston is claiming, the planning to leave Dunedin is pretty far along already. He himself have said that the current situation in Dunedin, which has the minor league complex separate from the main stadium (which itself is showing its age), was "not an ideal situation from the player-development perspective." There was a report from the Tampa Bay Times that Paul Beeston had not been returning emails and phone calls from the Mayor of Dunedin. In addition, the Jays and Astros have worked together to obtain $50 million in incentives from the State of Florida to help finance the project. Crane said that the deal is "95 percent" complete, and they are only waiting on the City of Palm Beach Gardens to officially approve their portion of the funds. The municipal government had promised to match state funding dollar-for-dollar. Florida governments are providing substantial subsidies in order to keep clubs from fleeing to Arizona for spring training.

The Astros are aiming to open the facility by 2016 (their current lease in Kississmee expires at the end of 2016) and Crane already has placed architects to do preliminary designs. The Astros are spearheading the project; it is unknown how much involvement or input the Blue Jays have had in the design.