Neighborhood opposition played a significant role in Palm Beach Gardens’ decision to withdraw its site from consideration for a spring training baseball stadium in January 2014. But it wasn’t the only reason.
The Toronto Blue Jays, who were supposed to share the site with the Houston Astros, rejected the deal.
Gardens City Manager Ron Ferris had traveled to Toronto, Houston and Arizona in 2013 to hammer out a proposal for a $100 million spring training facility off Central Boulevard near two public schools.
The Toronto trip in September — with Natalie Crowley, the city’s planning and zoning director; Daniel Martell, the Economic Council director; and Tom McNicholas, a consultant — included a tour of Rogers Centre and seats with team officials in a luxury suite to watch the Blue Jays beat the New York Yankees, 2-0.
The Astros had been focusing on Palm Beach Gardens since 2012. The Blue Jays had been considering a move to Gardens as early as March 2013, city records reviewed by The Palm Beach Post showed. Ferris said he went to Toronto “to show them I was serious. I’d like to think they were serious.”
But in December 2013, a month before the City Council voted to reject the baseball deal, the Blue Jays on Dec. 12, 2013, sent Ferris a letter signaling the team’s intent to stay in Dunedin, Toronto’s spring home since 1977.
The Blue Jays were worried the Gardens facility would cost more than $114 million and force the teams to kick in money, something Toronto officials claimed was never part of the deal.
“Clearly this is not in line with a commitment to construct a facility ‘at no cost to the teams,’’’ Paul Beeston, the Blue jays president, and Matthew Shuber, the Jays’ vice president of business affairs, wrote.
The Palm Beach Gardens plan “would not justify our moving our Florida operations out of a community in which we have maintained such operations on an uninterrupted basis since 1977,’’ the Blue Jays officials wrote.
The Astros were always on board with the project, Ferris said in an interview, while the Blue Jays seemed to be “dragging their feet. If they had gotten on board like Houston did, the outcome might have been a little different.”