BRADENTON, Fla. — Ocala in north-central Florida is pursuing what the city calls "Project Homerun," a plan to steal the New York Yankees' Class A Minor League Team from Tampa.
The City Council inked a license agreement at its Nov. 5 meeting with the minor league club's owner, FSL Bomber Baseball LLC, obligating the team to play in Ocala for 25 years. The deal also allows up to three, 10-year renewals.
The agreement also contains contingencies, including one that requires construction of a 4,000-seat stadium in Ocala, which is in Marion County.
The council has asked Marion County to hold a referendum by March 31 to ask local voters to approve a ½-cent local sales tax increase, which would remain in effect for five years.
Up to $60 million of sales tax revenues would be used to buy land, build a stadium, and make surrounding infrastructure improvements for the team and an entertainment complex that would include a hotel, several multipurpose fields for community use, retail and tourist attractions, an exhibit hall, and parking.
The city is exploring options for leveraging the sales tax and other revenues with bonds.
Marion County and Ocala would split the estimated $350,000 cost to hold the referendum.
Major League's New York Yankees would continue to hold spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, but there is no agreement that requires its farm team to remain there, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Tampa Yankees drew 118,770 ball fans to games this year, the fourth-highest attendance in the 12-team Florida State League, the paper said.
According to consultants working for Ocala on the minor-league team relocation project, Marion County has the third-highest in-migration of New York residents among certain counties in the Sunshine state showing "a potential affinity" for the Yankees.