Yankees back out of deal to move High-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala

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Rendering of the proposed ballpark in Ocala. (via WFTV)
Rendering of the proposed ballpark in Ocala. (via WFTV)

The Yankees have backed out of a deal that would have moved their High Class-A affiliate from Tampa to Ocala, reports WFTV Channel 9. Susan Latham Carr says the agreement is technically suspended until April, but it is unlikely to completed. Apparently the team withdrew their relocation plan after getting some resistance from the local community regarding a proposed tax hike that would have paid for a new ballpark. The city of Ocala is out the $300k it spent trying to woo the team.

“While we expected to bring the community together with this project, it has unfortunately become a source of division,” said Ocala City Council President John McLeod. “They were a little taken aback at the first county commission meeting where they were expecting a little bit more united support, and they didn’t get that. That’s politics. That’s the way things go sometimes.”

The Yankees have been looking to move their High-A affiliate out of Tampa for a while now and this isn’t the first relocation deal that has fallen through — a plan to move the club to Orlando fell apart back in 2010. The deal with Ocala, which was agreed to back in October, included a new $45M ballpark that would have been built in time for Opening Day 2016. A half-cent sales tax increase over the next ten years would have paid for the facility.

Relocating the High-A affiliate is all about finding a better and more lucrative market. The Florida State League has historically struggled with attendance and High-A Tampa averaged only 1,827 fans per game last season, fourth best in the league. They’re stuck competing with the Rays, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, and various collegiate sports. Moving the team a hundred or so miles north to Ocala would have eliminated some of that competition.

The Yankees will surely continue to look to relocate their High-A affiliate, but they are locked into Tampa for Spring Training. That isn’t changing no matter what. The team still has a 12 years left on a 30-year contract that will keep them in Steinbrenner Field for Spring Training and Grapefruit League play.

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  • Professor Longnose

    $45 million, the Yankees should pay for it themselves.

  • Pseudoyanks

    I haven’t been to Ocala in decades…maybe it has changed, but I view this as a win. While that’s a nice picture up there at the top of this post, if you zoomed out you’d see nothing but horse farms and cowboy hats.

  • Dicka24

    I love the Yankees, but these billion dollar teams need to go F themselves with these publically financed stadiums. Ultimately it’s up to the people in these communities to decide, but I’m glad the people opted against it. As a developer, I understand that their are benefits to the community, but they are always oversold, and for me personally, governments/taxpayers shouldn’t be in the stadium building business. Private enterprise should be.

    • CashmanNinja

      Exactly this. These teams are BILLION dollar teams. $45 mil is nothing for a team like that. They’ll make the money back. Why the hell should the public be forced to pay for something like that? It’d be 1 thing if it was something that would completely revitalize a community, but I don’t think a minor league baseball team has that kind of draw. I’m glad that place went against it because it wasn’t fair for the taxpayers. Think of it this way…imagine if some sports you didn’t care for in anyway came to your town and wanted to build a $45 mil stadium, but the catch was that the taxpayers would have to pay. I for one would be furious.

    • Chris z

      Let’s also be serious about this, it’s not like the Yankees were moving there. It’s a single A team. How much revenue will a single A team bring into a community anyway? It would take 10 years before the stadium was paid off.

  • TWTR

    Yeah, I’m not a fan of tax dollars paying for stadia.

  • Lukaszek

    This is stupid, the Yankees could easily pay for the stadium themselves

  • mac1

    Agreed with all above. Good for the folks in Ocala who voted this down.

  • bacciagaloop

    I have been hearing grumbling about Boca being in on getting an affiliate. With the amount of Yankee fans in that area, this would be an amazing location in my opinion. Boca is upscale, nice, and close to several major markets without being too close to tear away from the attendance of the Yankees. Closest thing would be FAU, which isn’t exactly winning attendance awards, then you’re over an hour away from all the Miami teams, and you’re 45 minutes away from the Panthers.

    • Alex

      They could be called the “Boca Baby Bombers.”

  • Carmine Petrangelo

    Ocala has developed a lot in recent years. Would be a good location for the team but 45 million in taxpayer’s money is to much. Maybe something like 20 million with the Yankees picking up the rest. It would create a decent number of jobs and could be used by the local young people on occasion. The half cent sales tax makes sense because visitors would also have pay for it.