LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The Toronto Blue Jays are confirming to WINK News, they are looking for a new spring training home, and Fort Myers and Collier County are on their list to check out. That could be good for near-vacant City of Palms Park.
The Jays have trained for more than 30 years at a park in Dunedin, near Tampa. In recent times, the team has become disenchanted with the stadium and the practice facilities, which are located a few miles from the stadium.
"We would welcome any talks with the Jays. I know money is very tight, but we could possibly get grants from the state, and make some deals on concessions and parking, and perhaps put together a deal," says Cecil Pendergrass, chairman of the Lee Board of Commissioners.
"We have not heard back from the Washington Nationals, since we asked them to cut back on their request for 36-million dollars in improvements to City of Palms and the training complex. So we are open to talking with another Major League team about coming here. We need a tenant for that park to help the city of Fort Myers and the surrounding merchants," Pendergrass says.
Bonnie Grunberg, co-owner of the Oasis Restaurant, agrees. She says her place has lost a lot of business, since the Boston Red Sox left Palms Park for Jet Blue Stadium.
"We have so many Canadians here, more than ever this winter, and I know they would love to have the Jays here. It would be so good for all of us and for the city of Fort Myers," says Grunberg.
Jays fan Joe Castro, vacationing in Fort Myers, would love to have the team in Lee for spring training. "That would expand the fan base, we have so many Ontario people here in March," he says.
The Jays have mentioned Collier county as a possible, new location. But Collier's director of tourism, Jack Wert, tells WINK: the county does not have a stadium for spring training, and it does not have the money to build one.