The Ocala City Council held a public meeting on Monday to share plans to bring the New York Yankees Single-A team to the city. Since 2011, Ocala leaders have been negotiating a deal to move the minor league team from Tampa to Ocala. They hope to have a deal pretty soon, but it would all be contingent on taxpayers agreeing to a half-cent sales tax increase in order to pay for a new stadium.
There were mixed feelings about this project among the meeting's attendees.
"This is the most asinine idea I have ever heard," said one resident as he addressed the city council.
Another resident, Allison Campbell, disagrees with him. "I am in full support of that, to put it in the taxpayers' hands," she said. Campbell grew up with a minor league baseball team in Tennessee. As an Ocala resident she doesn't mind having her taxes raised for a little entertainment closer to home.
"I've wanted that here in Marion County ever since I moved here," said Campbell. "I have three little boys of my own; let's carry it on to the next generation."
Bringing a baseball team to the area will not come at a low price. The stadium is estimated to cost $60 million. This will also cover the structure's parking lots and landscaping. Taxpayers will be footing the bill by having their sales tax raised by half a cent if voters approve a referendum in March 2014.
Doug Shearer believes the money should be spent in other places. "We won't pay an extra half cent. It's been defeated twice for the schools, and we need to make better schools. This is going to keep costing us forever," he said.
Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn along with City Council members are optimistic about the team moving to the area.
"We would bond it so we can go ahead and do the construction [on the stadium]. The tax will start getting collected on January 1, 2015," Guinn said.
The half-cent sales tax would generate a total of $82 million over a five-year period. The mayor says $22-million of that will be used on other projects around town. Next month Marion County Commissioners will vote on the project. If there are no delays, the stadium could be ready for the 2016 season.