Efforts to fund a proposed Tampa Yankees (High Class A; Midwest League) ballpark in Ocala are being suspended at the request of parent New York Yankees, with Marion County concurring in the matter.
No details have been released about the request from the Yankees; presumably some will be released at Monday’s noon meeting. From Ocala.com:
“Whether they (the Yankees) want out or to restructure — we will get the details on Monday,” City Councilman Jim Hilty said Friday evening. “Obviously, you can see the environment is not right with the County Commission. I think a blind man can see that one.”
Anthony Bruno, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Yankee Global Enterprises LLC, could not be reached for comment late Friday.
At issue is how to pay for a stadium to lure the minor league team to Ocala — and whether the County Commission would ask Marion County voters if they would be willing to accept a temporary sales tax to pay for the ballpark.
As Hilty said, it was no secret the funding proposal was in trouble with Marion County Commissioners, who initially balked at the idea of a five-year sales tax for funding the ballpark and associated development; the commission had counteroffered with a shorter-term tax and then announced in December the whole idea of a referendum was up in the air, with a vote delayed. Part of Marion County encompasses part of The Villages, one of the most conservative areas in a conservative state, and undoubtedly the county commissioners have been receiving some negative feedback from residents about any tax hike. And the deal is somewhat convoluted in that the city would bear all the risk: the Yankees would be a tenant, avoiding property taxes.
The ballpark would cost $38 million; the entire development, including land acquisition, would cost $60 million. It would include 30 acres of land available to the Yankees for additional development. There are strong ties between the Steinbrenner family and Ocala: the family owns land in the area and runs a horse-breeding operation.
UPDATE: The Marion County Commission followed through and suspended efforts to fund the Yankees ballpark via sales tax. Technically, the matter is on hold and can be revived if another funding mechanism for the ballpark can be identified, but no one sounds very optimistic that this will happen.
RELATED STORIES: County vote on new Yankees ballpark delayed; Marion County to take up Yankee ballpark funding Tuesday; 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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