DUNEDIN, Fla. — COVID-19 travel restrictions brought the Toronto Raptors to Tampa, and now the same issues could be the reason the Blue Jays start the Major League Baseball regular-season here in Dunedin.
Toronto Sun reporter Rob Longley covers the Blue Jays and says temporarily relocating the team to Florida makes sense.
“A lot of Canadians are very familiar with that area. Certainly, baseball fans are used to going down there in droves to watch spring training games. I think in terms of television if you saw games being played at TD ballpark. It would have a familiar feel to Blue Jays fans because they’ve watched spring training games there for decades," said Longley.
TD Ball Park was just renovated and would no doubt provide much better weather than Buffalo, where the Jays played some games last year in their Triple-A stadium.
“Playing games outdoors in Buffalo in April and May is very unattractive at this point," said Longley.
Businesses along Dunedin’s Main Street like the Crown and Bull are anxious for the boost the Jays will provide when Spring Training starts next month.
But the idea of them staying for the season, too? They say that could be a huge help.
“It would be great for us. The stadium is only 10 blocks up the road. They come through here. They frequent all of our establishments. All the shops and restaurants. So it’s good for everyone," said Dion Falzon, Owner of Crown and Bull.
Baseball hasn’t said if fans will be allowed to go to Spring Training games yet.
Once the regular season starts, the Rays have said they’ll sell around 7,000 tickets a game.
TD Ball Park is much small than the Trop, so a reduced capacity would likely be around 2,000 fans.
The Blue Jays are still trying to find a way to play in Toronto. But Ontario is under an emergency stay-at-home order as COVID cases spike again.
And travel out in and out of Canada continues to be restricted.