Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, the home of the single-A Dunedin Blue Jays and the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays, was opened in 1990. The ballpark is built on the site of Grant Field, which was the original home of the Jays. The city of Dunedin and this location are the only home that the Blue Jays have ever had since their inception as a franchise in 1977.
While many teams have shifted spring training venues over the decades and in some cases moved back and forth between Florida and Arizona, Toronto’s relationship with Dunedin has been a constant and the Blue Jays are synonymous with this suburban bedroom community on the outskirts of St.Petersburg/Clearwater.
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Much of the food presentation available at spring training is closed during the summer season, and that pretty much means two concession stands open to serve the smaller crowds at this level of baseball. The offerings here are pretty much standard stadium concessions including pizza ($3.25), hot dogs ($3), nachos, popcorn, peanuts, and cracker jacks ($2.75-$4.50). Coke products run $3-$5, and draft Budweisers are also $5. The sandwich offerings include cheeseburgers, bratwurst and Italian sausage ($5) and veggie burger and pulled pork sandwiches ($6).
Most spring training venues are built and configured to handle the crowds for major league spring training games. Dunedin is no exception. With about 6,000 fixed seats, the team draws far fewer fans come summer, and that means sparse attendance, with those in the building seeking canopied or shaded areas for comfort during the brutally hot summers, especially for day games.
Florida Auto Exchange Stadium is your prototypical neighborhood ballpark, sandwiched in amongst residential neighborhoods, and adjacent to the Jays' spring training practice facility. There really is no "neighborhood" to speak of in terms of walkable district or things to do in the area.
The city of Dunedin, however, is a sparkling and attractive tourist destination, with beautiful beaches, the Honeymoon Island nature preserve, the famous Sponge Docks, and terrific dining options.. As for sports bar options, try the Dunedin Brewery on Douglas Ave, not too far from the ballpark. Eddie's Bar and Grill and Norton's Sports Bar and Grill are two other good places to check out nearby.
There are six spring training sites within a 50 mile proximity in the Tampa Bay area, and in Dunedin, the team has to fight for a fan base amongst these competing markets, not to mention that the MLB Tampa Bay Rays are the big game in town. And they don't exactly draw well either. So expect small crowds, little fan energy and general apathy about the fortunes of the team.
Located on Douglas Ave and US-19 running parallel to Douglas just a mile or so away, the stadium is well served with easily drivable boulevards to get you in and out. Public transportation is not an option. Ample parking is available on the stadium grounds. During spring training when the crowds are much larger, some of the homes surrounding the ballpark property sell spaces on their front lawns. But for the A-ball summer league, parking is free and plentiful.
There are no reserved seats, the general admission price is $6 to get in, and parking is free. Concession prices are reasonable. However, the ancillary value of the total baseball experience is just not there. With few promotions, between inning distractions and other things to do, it pretty much becomes watching nine innings of baseball with 500 or so of your closest friends.
The Toronto Blue Jays' anthem and fight song, "OK Blue Jays" is performed during the 7th inning stretch. It's a nice shout out to their parent club and pretty much the only cultural connection in the game day experience. Also, Jays' colors, font and graphics adorn the signage and concession stand marquees. Also, there are nice banners of Jays greats who played here adorning the concourses, along with a plaque near home plate commemorating legendary broadcaster Tom Cheek.
If Dunedin wanted to create a bit more of a connection to their parent club, why not go all in, if for nothing else, to provide an attraction to the many Canadian visitors who come to this area each summer? Blow up the concession menu and start fresh - a craft beer section of great Canadian brews, add Poutine to the menu, sell those crazy Lays chips with ketchup. Add a Tim Hortons. Sing Oh Canada at the start of each game. Maybe even half in French. Place signage in meters and feet on the outfield walls. This accessorizing could give Dunedin and unique ballpark event which would easily distinguish themselves from their peer franchises in the Florida State League. Worth a try.
Tampa Bay has been the home of professional baseball for almost 100 years, with the Chicago Cubs coming to Tampa for spring training in 1913, and both the St. Louis Browns and the St. Petersburg Saints independent team starting their St. Pete operations one year later, in 1914. Since those two Major League teams and that groundbreaking minor league team, more than 25 teams, 18 of them as spring-only MLB tenants (a third of which - the most in one stadium in Florida — played at Al Lang Stadium in St. Pete), have made the Bay Area home.
Surprisingly, the minor league team with the longest one-stadium tenure in the region is currently the Dunedin Blue Jays. With the parent team in Toronto playing every year of their existence — since 1977 — in Dunedin, the "baby" Jays originally came into being in 1978, but folded in 1979 after the parent club turned their attention to higher-ranked minor league teams. The team returned in 1987 after an outpouring of support from the residents of Dunedin wanted summer ball back in their town. Originally playing at Grant Field on the same spot of the current park, the reincarnated Single-A Blue Jays proved to be quite popular, prompting the city to rebuild the 60-year old, 3,400-seater into the current park that can be seen today.
Haven't seen a minor league game here in years but try to make it for spring training at least once a year. This is another ballpark that's very plain on the surface but grows on you. It's older, it's not much to look at but it has character. But the best part is if you go to a Blue Jays spring training game, it's within walking distance of downtown Dunedin and its restaurants & bars. For a 1:00 game, I recommend going early, parking off Main St., then pregaming at either Dunedin Brewery or Flanagan's Irish Pub (which is home of the local chapter of the Glasgow Celtic FC supporters club). Then walk down Douglas Ave. to the ballpark, then walk back to Main St. after for a postgame meal at one of the restaurants or drinks at one of the bars.
The stadium is located in the southwest corner of the community, on Douglas Road just north of Union. Hard to believe that this is the place where the Bosettis, Barfields, Bells, and Bautistas played every March.
Grant Field was built in 1930 and the current structure was constructed in 1990, although the field itself was not replaced. A couple of renovations have taken place since then but you wouldn't know it as the park is old and it shows. This is not a bad thing by any means, it is refreshing to see a ballpark that keeps things simple.
Parking is free and dangerous as foul balls regularly enter the lot behind home plate - there's even a sign that mentions you might win a prize if you car is dinged. You might want to park down the right field line if you are concerned about damage to your vehicle.
Tickets are $6 for general admission. The stadium is relatively small with a seating capacity of just 5,510 but crowds here rarely get over 1,000 as Dunedin is last in the league in attendance. The best place to sit is in the top few rows along the baselines which are protected by the sun by a roof. Note that there is netting along the top of the dugouts which ruins the view from the seats down low, giving you another reason to move up.
There is very little here to talk about as the Jays haven't bothered with anything beyond the ballpark; concessions are typical and acceptable. Wednesday is dollar day with dogs, chips, and sodas going for a buck.
There were a few banners with current Jays and a tribute to Tom Cheek, longtime Blue Jays announcer, on the wall just inside the main gate. As well, there was a list of Dunedin players who had made the show.
This is the purest baseball spot in the Florida State League, with nary a distraction to take your attention away from the game.
The evening I attended a game here in May, 2013, had a 'Wings' contest. I paid an extra $3 for my ticket and got to taste and judge 13 different local restaurants wings. An excellent promotion and one I had not experienced before.
It's a traditional minor league park where the focus is on the game. There are a few gimmicks between innings but not overly done. The music level is perfect and announcements and players changes were called when the music wasn't playing.
It's general admission seating so you can sit wherever you want. I recommend the second level above the dugouts as that will get you high enough to see above the nets.
Downtown Dunedin (I walked) has a small but nice history museum. I visited the Dunedin Brewery and really enjoyed the beers and atmosphere there.
937 Douglas Ave
Dunedin, FL 34698
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Dunedin, FL 34698
1 Causeway Blvd
Dunedin, FL 34698
1700 Sunset Dr
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
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