The Toronto Blue Jays are in the early stages of developing a plan to play regular season home games at TD Ballpark, their spring training stadium in Dunedin, Florida, should they be unable to play in Toronto in 2021, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Canada's travel restrictions forced the Blue Jays to play home games at their Triple-A affiliate's park in Buffalo, New York, last year.
Canada's COVID-19 protocols require all incoming international travelers to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival, and the restrictions were just extended until at least Feb. 21. MLB and the Blue Jays were not given an exemption last season, forcing the team to relocate to Buffalo. Topkin says the Blue Jays have already had preliminary talks with Dunedin officials. From Topkin:
"We would welcome the opportunity if they were to open their season here," parks and recreation director Vince Gizzi said Wednesday. "It would just be wonderful for our city, if they were restricted from going in and out of Canada, that they could play here. ... We'd be excited to see that happen, especially in our newly renovated stadium."
Playing in Buffalo again in 2021 is a possibility but not ideal. There is expected to be a Triple-A season in 2021, so the ballpark will be needed for Toronto's Triple-A affiliate, and also relocating medical and training equipment from Toronto is a considerable expense. The Blue Jays already have all the equipment they need at their newly renovated spring training facility.
Furthermore, playing home games in Dunedin could allow the Blue Jays to host a limited number of fans. The Rays recently announced plans to host roughly 7,000 fans per game this season, which is approximately 25 percent of Tropicana Field's capacity. A similar plan would allow for 2,000 or so fans at Dunedin.
There are potential headaches with the Dunedin plan. First and foremost, the summer weather (hot, humid, rainy) is unpleasant and no one would like attending games outdoors in those conditions if the team must remain in Dunedin long-term. Also, Toronto's Single-A affiliate plays home games in Dunedin, so there could be scheduling conflicts once the minor-league season begins.
The NBA's Toronto Raptors are playing their home games at Tampa's Amalie Arena through at least March 5 because of Canada's quarantine requirement, and they could play there all season. The NHL created a temporary all-Canadian division for its seven Canadian teams to eliminate travel across the border this year.
Spring training is scheduled to begin in approximately four weeks. The Blue Jays are scheduled to open the regular season on the road on Friday, April 1. The home opener is scheduled for Friday, April 8, against Mike Trout and the Angels.