Sunday, October 27, 2013

Report: Tampa Yankees Ready to Move to Ocala

It's been nearly a year since the rumor first started, but the Ocala Star-Banner is reporting the Yankees are ready to move their High-A minor league team from Tampa to Ocala in 2016.  The team will get a new stadium/entertainment complex if city council eventually agrees to the deal city staff negotiated:
City Council President Mary Rich said she thinks having a minor league team would be good for Ocala.

"They did a poll," Rich said about the staff. "The poll said the majority of people would like it. I think that's why we went on with it (negotiations)."

Asked about the expense, she said it would not be expensive, but then added, "You know, to build a stadium, it's going to be expensive. But I don't know exactly what they are asking of us ... I do know the county has to own the property. That is state law. So they have to be involved, too."
The stadium price tag (which would host the minor-league team only - Yankees spring training would remain in Tampa) is projected at somewhere around $45 million.  The city proposes the county would pay for it using its bed tax revenues if commissioners - and then voters - approve.

Ocala may be hungry for a team, but attendance for Florida State League games is routinely the worst of all the big minor leagues.    Last year, only two teams in the entire league broke 2,000 fans per game.  Hot and humid Florida summer nights don't draw many folks to the ballpark.

Just don't tell that to Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn:
Guinn said having the Yankees would bring jobs, not only for baseball itself, but he said he believes other companies will locate in Ocala.

And it could attract people driving by who could see the stadium from Interstate 75. He said a site being considered is behind the Heath Brook development.
And don't tell councilman John McCloud that 2,000 fans per game don't create 1,000 new jobs:
As far as jobs go, he said there would be about 700 temporary jobs and 300 permanent ones, not including service jobs.
"These players will be living in the community while they are here. Other teams come into town," he said.

The visiting teams, he said, likely would stay overnight in hotels and eat in restaurants and shop in local stores.
Single-A players make about $7,000 a year.  They get $25/day in per diem while on the road, but typically just eat the PB&J sandwiches provided in the clubhouse.  They won't exactly be dropping big dough on steak dinners or in Ocala's antique shops.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Yankees were fourth in the Florida State League last year with 1,827 fans per game.  And it stands to reason the move from a big city (with lost of entertainment options) to a small city might actually boost that number.  But as we saw in Port Charlotte with the Rays' Stone Crabs franchise, the novelty can wear off quickly and heat/humidity win out over the cool new team in town.  It may also not suit the FSL to move a team from one of its competitive cores (Tampa Bay) all the way up to Ocala, where long road trips could quickly negate any revenue gain from attendance.


  1. This article is exactly right. Don't let councilman McCloud try to sugar coat this issue. Minor league players DO NOT spend much money in their communities. They can't. They don't make enough money. Two examples from here in Ft. Myers...before the old Clarion Hotel on U.S. 41 was demolished Fort Myers Miracle players used to rent out part of the southern wing of the hotel, and sleep 2-3 players per room. They would walk next door to the Walgreens and by Wonder bread and peanut butter to make sandwiches for meals. Last season I got to talk baseball with some of the visiting Jupiter Hammerhead players while the were having the Costco Food Court, munching on $1.50 hotdogs! One of the players I was talking with excused himself to join the rest of his team while they browsed for FREE samples throughout the store. Is this the economic stimulus Marion County is looking for? It's nice having a FSL team in your community, but it's not a economic generating machine like some politician would like you to believe it is.

  2. Marion County commissioners rejected the idea of raising the 2% tourist tax aka a bed tax to 3% for the possibility of building a Sports complex for youth sports tournaments in the Summer of 2012. A 1/2% five year sales tax is being proposed to build the stadium, but voters have to approve.