Marion County commissioners hear both sides of stadium debate

Updated:

Loading

OCALA, Fla. - Supporters of a taxpayer-funded stadium for the New York Yankees took another swing at the Marion County commission Tuesday.

The commission must agree to hold a referendum on the issue of the stadium, but so far has refused to commit. Some county leaders insist the public is against it.

The Yankees will move their minor league baseball team from Tampa to Ocala, as long as Marion County taxpayers cover the cost of a $53 million stadium.

"I attend 70 to 80 minor league baseball games a year. I've gone to four games in one day in two different states," one resident told commissioners.

At the Tuesday meeting, residents both for and against the proposed stadium made pitches to the commissioners.

The Yankees and the city of Ocala have agreed to split the $350,000 cost for a referendum. That referendum would ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to build the facility along Interstate 75.

City officials have called the proposed stadium a home run. They said that people driving by on the interstate would see the huge Yankees logo and pack the stadium.

But the county commission must agree to hold the special election, and some members say their constituents don't want it.

"The feeling from the local folks out on the street -- folks you run into – they're opposed. A lot of folks are opposed," said Marion County Commissioner Stan McClain.

If there is a county-wide vote, it would be by mail-in ballot.

"Somewhere between 45 and 55 percent would be participating. Even in a special election, if we did it by mail-in, almost the same numbers you would have in a November gubernatorial election. That's pretty good participation," said Marion County Commissioner Carl Zalak.

But nobody will have the chance to participate unless the commission agrees to put it to the voters.

The county commission will hold another public hearing in two weeks on the stadium issue.

A decision on a special election will be settled at that meeting.