The Toronto Blue Jays have been snowbirds in the Tampa Bay area since their inaugural season in 1977. Because of the Spring Training, the team has known their spring home in Dunedin, Fla. longer than they have known their home north of the border.
Little did anyone realize, the Blue Jays would slowly turn Dunedin into Little Canada every March. Thousands of Canadians flock to the city of 35,000 in northern Pinellas in what seems like actual bird migration patterns.
It’s not just locals who became Blue Jays fans going to the games. It’s an outright Canadian invasion happening under our noses in the name of baseball. Even the PA Announcer is Canadian. You can hear it when he says the word “out.” There was a bus from Ontario with Canadian flags on the dashboard unloading elderly Canadians. The idea of an invasion is not a stretch.
Add on top of that the food and advertisements at TD Ballpark, the Blue Jays spring home, the moment you walk inside the stadium, you’ll quickly get a feeling that you somehow cross the Canadian border without a passport.
The Sports version of EPCOT’s World Showcase
Now, looking at the prices, you would suddenly hope you were in Canada because then everything is in Canadian dollars. The higher price is an easier pill to swallow if it was.
The menu seemed usual with options of hot dogs, peanuts and nachos except for one option: poutine. While the dish seems more fitting for the old Montreal Expos, the gravy-and-cheese-covered fries have become an iconic Canadian food. It would only be fitting that Canada’s team would offer it a snack for your day at the ballpark. It even gets the Canadian Seal of Approval from the Canadians that work the concessions that sell it.
While there were no other Canada-specific foods sold, you can see advertisements for Canadian food chains around the outfield walls. Pizza Nova’s logo can be seen just above the left-field wall, and the more-well-known Tim Hortons has a full-fledged sign on the right-field wall.
The standing-room/outfield bar area is called the WestJet Flight Deck. WestJet is a Canadian airline headquartered out of Calgary (though Toronto is one of its hubs).
There’s a giant sign for Rogers, a Canadian cell phone company and the holder of their home stadium’s naming rights in Toronto. All of these add to the Canadian aesthetic of the place.
Other Canadian Features of Note
For starters, the Toronto Blue Jays logo has a maple leaf on it. It’s not super noteworthy, especially when Toronto’s hockey team is called the Maple Leafs (and, yes, it’s “Leafs” not “Leaves”), but it’s there because the team is Canadian.
The holder of the spring training stadium’s naming rights is TD Bank. The TD stands for “Toronto-Dominion.”
All of these features blend together to create a unique atmosphere in the most unexpected part of Florida. While it spends most of the year housing the minor league affiliate, for a few weeks in the spring, Dunedin becomes Tampa Bay’s taste of Canada.