The Washington Nationals and the Milwaukee Brewers are on the hunt for new spring training facilities. They want shiny parks in locations that are attractive to fans that would travel to warmer climates to enjoy watching spring baseball.
It seems that the city of Dunedin, Florida, might just be the target for the Nationals and maybe even the Brewers. There is a very remote chance that both could relocate and share facilities in Dunedin. Mayor Dave Eggers is going to make sure that his city will be in the spring training business for many years to come.
As of right now, if things go as planned, the Toronto Blue Jays will leave Dunedin for a new Spring Training site that they would share with the Houston Astros in Palm Beach Gardens. Despite the Blue Jays’ contract with the city expiring on Dec. 30, 2017, the club has the option to leave as early as 2015.
The new deal would have the Jays and the Astros playing in a brand new proposed $100 million dollar stadium, and each team would have a new state-of-the-art practice complex in Palm Beach Gardens. The new site is key to keeping the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins on the east coast. If two new teams aren’t added to the area, then the Mets, Cards and Marlins have out clauses freeing them to move to other Florida cities or to Arizona.
Arizona built the Cactus League with the idea of having all of their teams located within a 40 radius of Phoenix to cut down on team travel and allow for the best fan experience. If the Jays and Astros relocate to Palm Beach Gardens, then there will be a five-team cluster on the east coast, allowing for plenty of games with easy travel. It is the closeness to other teams that has the Nationals needing to move, and Dunedin might just be the perfect landing spot.
Dunedin is ready to pour over $50 million into upgrading their AutoTrader.com Stadium and the practice facilities, making everything first-class. If the Nationals would take the leap, they would have a big say over what upgrades would get done and have their own training site custom built.
The Nationals had been in contact with Ft. Myers about City of Palms Park but at this point, the city, who just built a new stadium for the Boston Red Sox and did a number of renovations to the facilities that house the Minnesota Twins three years ago, has no money at this point for the Nationals.
Washington would be the perfect fit for Dunedin because their NL East rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, are down the road in Clearwater. Their interleague “Beltway Rivals,” the Baltimore Orioles, are across the Skyway Bridge in Sarasota, and then of course there are the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers all within an hour drive of their possible new home.
While the Nationals would be a natural fit, the Brewers might be a little harder to sell. Milwaukee has not trained in the state since 1964. Atlanta began their spring each year in Palm Beach before moving to Disney.
Since Milwaukee welcomed the Brewers to town in 1970, they have trained in Arizona and for their entire 43 years. They may have changed cities, but they have always been in the Cactus League. At the moment, they are on a year-to-year lease with Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. The team has asked for upgrades in the facilities and it is being debated at the moment by the city.
While the Brewers might be interested in Dunedin, it is far more likely that they are using the conversation to get the upgrades and stay where they are. That said, Dunedin could be very creative by moving to offer the same type of deal Palm Beach Gardens is offering. Perhaps they could land both Milwaukee and Washington.
For now everything is staying in place, but before the end of the 2014 Spring Training, we should know where the future spring home of both the Nationals and Brewers.