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Marion County to take up Yankees ballpark funding Tuesday

Proposed Ocala ballpark

Marion County Commissioners will decide tomorrow whether to spend $175,000 toward a referendum on whether county residents should pay a half-cent sales tax for a new Tampa Yankees (High Class A; Florida State League) ballpark.

The issue: whether to hold the referendum at the polls or use a mail-in ballot. It looked like the referendum was dead until the Tampa Yankees ownership stepped up to pay for half the cost of the referendum; the county could pay for the other half. From the Ocala Star-Banner:

Commissioner Kathy Bryant’s concern about the county footing $175,000 of the $350,000 cost to run a special election was alleviated last week when the Yankees agreed to pick up the county’s tab. The city of Ocala is still on the hook for the remaining $175,000.

“I think that the commission is thankful that the Yankees are putting some skin in the game and were willing to step up and pay for that half of the election,” Commission Chairman Carl Zalak said Monday.

“I think if the mail-in ballot really does provide what I am thinking is an opportunity for every voter to vote and the Yankees step up, it’s certainly looking more positive than it was at the workshop,” he added about the commission’s workshop meeting held Nov. 21.

Even if the referendum moves forward, it’s not a given Marion County voter will approve a sales-tax hike. The Villages, which makes up a good chunk of Marion County population outside Ocala, is deeply conservative — we’re talking deep Mitt Romney territory here, both in terms of votes and financial contributions, and folks like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have made appearances — and we’re guessing more than a few retired folks in The Villages will take aim at a tax hike that would benefit the Yankees on the other side of the county. We’ll be hitting The Villages after the Winter Meetings next week; it will be a good chance to see what the locals are saying about the proposed ballpark funding.

RELATED STORIES: Next step for new Ocala ballpark: sales-tax approval; Tampa Yankees on verge of move to Ocala; Ocala, Tampa Yankees talking new ballpark


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