Marion County leaders balk at Yankees stadium plan
Marion County Commissioners have delayed a public hearing for a new Yankees Stadium until Jan. 7.
The Yankees want to move their minor league team from Tampa to Ocala but they want a new baseball stadium built. City of Ocala leaders support what’s been called Project Home Run, a $60 million sales tax referendum to pay for the stadium project.
When the city went to Marion County Commissioners to fund half of a special election in March, commissioners balked.
Commissioners are asking the city and Yankees to come up with a new financing plan that wouldn’t involve a sales tax.
“This has no chance, absolutely no chance of passing here in its current form,” resident Stan Hanson said at the public hearing.
The delay now means the earliest a referendum vote could happen is April.
Those who said the Yankees should build their own stadium were refuted, saying that’s not how minor league baseball works.
“When projects have no buy in the community, it’s a much, much higher failure rate,” business owner Kevin Ansley said.
Steve Voorhies pointed to the recent Orlando City Soccer deal.
“The ownership group of that franchise is paying for half the cost of the stadium,” he said.
Commissioners’ decision to walk away without moving forward to put the referendum on the ballot left Ocala leaders perplexed.
“From the city’s standpoint, we’ve looked at a lot of options and we still think the sales tax is the most efficient way to fund the stadium,” council member John McLeod said. “But the county wants to sit down and we’ve always been willing to sit down with our partners.”
“There’s a lot of misinformation [out there on] what the tax is, what the project is,” said Kevin Sheilley, president of the Ocala Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership. “And what the Yankees are paying which is substantial — about a million a year in maintenance, and really just trying to get all that information out there.”