WUFT News

Ocala City Council Votes to Push Ahead With ‘Project Home Run’

By on November 5th, 2013
The city's proposed timeline presented Tuesday for launching minor league baseball in Ocala by April 2016.

Courtesy: City of Ocala

(Click to view larger) The city's proposed timeline presented Tuesday for launching minor league baseball in Ocala by April 2016.

Ocala is a step closer to its field of dreams.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ocala City Council members voted to approve the license agreement with FSL Bomber Baseball, LLC. and delay three other agreements in what the city has dubbed “Project Home Run.”

Project Home Run, two years in the making, would move the Yankee’s Tampa Class A affiliate minor-league team to Ocala in a possibly soon-to-constructed stadium. The move would not change the location of the Yankee’s spring training in Tampa.

[doclink to="http://ocalafl.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=&MeetingID=1594&MediaPosition=&ID=6212&CssClass="][/doclink]The purchase and sale agreement with Ocala Trophy Ltd., owners of the land where the proposed stadium would be built, was also approved.

City manager Matthew Brower suggested a delay in approving three documents — the interlocal agreement, lease and quit claim deed for Marion County’s stadium ownership. He did so to allow more time for Marion County commissioners to review the agreements.

Ocala City Council members could then approve the agreements with the County’s consent.

“It’s about economic development, tourism enhancement and jobs creation,” Brower said.

The agreement permits Marion County to take on a half-cent tax for five years to raise funds for the stadium’s purchase and construction. The county would own the stadium and need to purchase the land where the stadium would be built.

The five-year tax would raise nearly $83 million, up to $60 million of which would be dedicated to the $53 million stadium project cost.

Two Ocala residents took to the podium to share their opinions against the stadium’s construction. Both expressed concern about how to pay for the project.

Douglas Shearer, a 28-year Ocala resident, said the stadium is a “total waste of tax dollars.” He offered University of Florida baseball and Tampa Bay Rays as alternatives for the Ocala baseball fan.

No residents spoke out in favor of the project, but Marvin Smollar, vice president of Ocala Trophy, expressed support for the stadium.

“For its economic development,” Smollar said, “for its attractions, for its homeowners and residents to have a … baseball team supported by the Yankees is a feather in the city’s cap and should be highly endorsed by all of its residents.”

Smollar said he was happy with the council’s vote, and the next test will be the commissioner’s meeting.

Marion County Commissioners will meet Nov. 21 in commissioner chambers to review the agreements, which total more than 900 pages.

Brower said the Yankees organization has already approved the agreement.

The county would need to purchase the property by Dec. 31 — a deadline three months ahead of a public special referendum vote. If commissioners and council members sign off on the referendum, Ocala residents would have to vote to approve it before March 31.

If they did, the process would move quickly: construction would start in August, and the first pitch would be expected in spring 2016.

For Douglas Shearer and others in opposition, there’s a hitch in that sequence.

“Their timeline makes no sense. They are going to buy this property,” Shearer said, “before we even vote on whether we’re going to raise the money to build a stadium on it.”

The city’s request for the county, including the purchase and referendum vote, is detailed on slide 31 of Tuesday’s presentation.

Clarification appended: A previous version of this story said the five-year tax would raise $60 million. The total tax revenue is closer to $83 million, $60 million of which would be dedicated to the stadium project cost.


This entry was posted in Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Politics

Bullets

Unlicensed Concealing of Weapons During Emergencies Bill Passes House

The bill passed in the house with a vote of 80-36 Friday afternoon.


Helen Warren and her campaign team celebrate her win for Gainesville City Commission At-large Seat 2. Warren viewed the results at the Alachua County supervisor of elections office on Tuesday night.

Helen Warren Defeats Annie Orlando In Run-Off Race

Helen Warren wins Gainesville City Commission At-large Seat 2 in run-off election against Annie Orlando on Tuesday night.


Helen Warren (left) debates issues facing the Gainesville community with commission-opponent Annie Orlando (right) at a forum on Thursday.

Gainesville City Commission Run-off Candidates Talk Issues at Forum

The Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, Gainesville Sun and WUFT sponsored a debate between the two candidates in the April 8 run-off election for the at-large candidate for Gainesville city council.


Bill Would Allow University Foundations to Discuss Research in Private

House Bill 115 passed Thursday with a vote of 83-33. The bill proposes the creation of secret meetings, which would be exempt from public records laws, when universities foundations discuss research proposals and money.


Although an empty field doesn’t hold much potential now, Clay County Development Authority has teamed up with Big League Dreams to build a multimillion-dollar sports complex in Middleburg, Fla. Photo provided by Kerri Stewart, CCDA spokesperson and economic development policy adviser

Middleburg Residents Voice Concern Over Proposed Sports Complex

Clay County residents are concerned about the lack of transparency in plans for a multi-million dollar sports complex.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments