Mayors' Corner

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August 2018

I hope everyone has been enjoying their summer! Some of you may be working on getting your kids ready for school as we have. Our son is in Gainesville, going to college, and working towards a degree in Architecture. But many of our friends are past that part of their lives and are spending their time traveling and enjoying what our wonderful state has to offer. Whatever you are doing, enjoy it and remember that summer is a time for rejuvenation – even if it’s to get ready for the holidays – LOL.

Speaking of summer, we tend to think about the beach and baseball. I’m so proud to tell you that as of a few weeks ago, we signed the final funding agreement for the remodeled stadium & new training center for the Toronto Blue Jays. It took us 4 years to negotiate & finalize the deal - but it’s done! The breakdown of the funding looks like this –

Pinellas County Bed Tax (paid for by tourists) - $41M
Toronto Blue Jays - $20M
State of Florida (paid for by the sales tax that stadiums generate) - $13M
City of Dunedin Penny for Pinellas (1/3 paid for by tourist) - $5.6M

In addition, the Toronto Blues Jays will be paying for all future maintenance, as well as most of the capital improvements and property tax. This works out to be an additional $25M contribution over 25 years.

Construction should begin in the next 6 months and we hope to be completed in time for Spring Training 2021! We are very pleased with this deal and thrilled that the Jays will remain in Dunedin for generations to come.

But this isn’t just about what the city did to get us here. Over 5 years ago, the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses got involved. They saw how our local economy depended on the presence of baseball. So Lynn Wargo, the Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses took it upon themselves to start an annual trip to Toronto to try to be Ambassadors for Dunedin and strengthen our once strained relationship with the Jays. These folks paid their own way to show their love for
the 43 year relationship and show that Dunedin was the right place to be. We
can’t thank them enough for their commitment to see this happen and for
opening the door to a renewed relationship with one of our largest local business
partners.

This year, our entire commission, along with County Commissioner Eggers, joined
our staff, the chamber, and local business owners on their 5th annual trip. We had
an estimated 40 person delegation travel to Toronto, with many things on our list
to accomplish. Some highlights are as follows:

1 – Visited with the newly remodeled Distillery District to see how old
manufacturing buildings have been converted to retail & restaurants. It’s called
adaptive reuse and we hope see this type of thing in Dunedin.

2 – Toured Toronto City Hall – Learned about their government processes such as
advisory committees, historic preservation and economic development. Just two
years ago, we signed a Memo of Understanding with Toronto to promote each
other, similar to what sister cities would do.

3 – Visited St. Lawrence Market – This is an old warehouse that’s been converted
to a market which the city owns & operates. This is another idea we’d like to see
right here in Dunedin.

4 – Met with the Toronto Local Control Board – This is the government agency
that oversees their liquor stores and upcoming marijuana stores. As you know,
Florida now has access to Medical Marijuana. Well, Toronto has had it for several
years and just recently voted to allow Recreational Marijuana. We wanted to
learn how they have dealt with these very important emerging issues.

5 – Working meeting with the Jays – Our staff sat down with the Jays to work
through the next steps of the project itself.

6 – Toured Roger’s Centre, the home of the Toronto Blues Jays, as well as
attended a game. We got to see their behind the scenes operations which, of
course, helps us understand their operations here.

7 – Traveled to see the Northern International Headquarters of the Taoist Tai Chi Center in Orangeville. As you know, we are the home of the Southern International Headquarters for the Taoist Society. As they have worked with the Marriott Autograph Collection folks to rebuild the Historic Fenway Hotel, we wanted to see what they accomplished in Canada.

Other things we found really cool were their many recycle bins along the streets along with the beautiful flowers that decorated their walkways. This is definitely something we can do here. But the most exciting thing was how folks knew of Dunedin and where it was, many of whom had been here before.

Thank you again to Pinellas County, the Tourist Development Council, the State Department of Economic Opportunity, the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, our local business community and our residents for helping us get where we are today with Spring Training. So here’s to the boys of summer – Let’s Play Ball!