Should the Tampa Yankees move to Ocala?

7:47 PM, Oct 28, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - It's the question being asked all over town. Will they or won't they? 

After 18 years of minor league baseball in the Bay, the Tampa Yankees could soon be sliding into a new home in Ocala.

Ocala city manager Matt Brower told 10 News, "The Yankees are a tremendous franchise. In fact, I think they are the the most successful franchise in baseball history. The brand name is the 4th most popular in the world. So to have this as part of our economic roster would be good for our community."

This move would only affect the Tampa Yankees, not the New York Yankees spring training, which has a long-standing contract to stay in Tampa.

It is the big story no one was expecting, and few people want to discuss, including the Tampa Sports Authority, Sports Commission, and the Tampa Mayor's Office.

However, one group is talking -- city leaders in Ocala. They are thrilled by the possibility.

But, it begs the question -- why would the Tampa Yankees leave a place so rich in sports tradition after nearly two decades?

The Tampa Yankees organization told 10 News, "Sometimes a minor league team does better in a smaller market, so we are exploring a smaller market. We are a small fish in a big pond here. We're hoping to be a big fish. This is an opportunity for people in Ocala to see baseball, but nothing is set in stone. There's nothing official."

Brower added, "At the end of the day, if we can make this to fruition, great asset for our community."

But, it's not time to pack up the pinstripes just yet. This move is far from a home run.

First, the city of Ocala has to present the idea to council members on Tuesday. City leaders, along with officials from the Tampa Yankees organization, will attend the meeting where the plan will be mapped out on the proposal. The move would be based on a new stadium built off of I-75, costing 4$5 million, paid for with tax dollars from a referendum on a March ballot. That is, if it passes.

Ocala city leaders say it would mean money and tourism for them.  Brower said, "Yankees would be the sole franchise in this area. No other teams in 75-mile radius. I think it would be very successful."

The deal would also have to be approved by the Florida State League along with both Minor and Major League Baseball.

And the Tampa Yankees reminded everyone, "There's no official agreement. There's nothing set in stone. We are exploring our options. We still have a few hurdles to go. This is not a done deal."

The Tampa Yankees averaged 1,827 fans per game in 2013, which ranked 4th in the Florida State League.

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