Tampa Yankees headed to new home in Ocala

The Florida State League Tampa Yankees will start playing in Ocala in 2016.
The Florida State League Tampa Yankees will start playing in Ocala in 2016.

New York Yankees officials confirmed Monday that the team’s Class A-Advanced minor league affiliate will play in a new Ocala ballpark in 2016. Plans for a $45 million stadium-entertainment complex near Interstate 75 and State Road 200 were to be unveiled at an Ocala City Council workshop Tuesday in the city. It should be noted that the city will need to build the ballpark before the deal is 100 percent done.

But both city and county leaders felt it could be done in time for the start of the 2016 Florida State League season.

Meanwhile, George M. Steinbrenner Field will still be used during the summer months once the minor league team leaves. Preliminary plans are to hold concerts at the stadium as well as amateur baseball tournaments and other sporting events. The team only drew about 1,500 fans to the Florida State League games and the Yankees felt that moving the minor league team to a smaller Florida city would be  good business.

The move of the Tampa Yankees to Ocala will have no impact on the New York Yankees Spring Training. The Yankees will continue to train in Tampa and their baseball operations offices will continue to be located year round at Steinbrenner Field.

The Tampa Yankees became a team in 1994. In the hierarchy of the Yankees farm system, they rank one level above the Class A Charleston, S.C., RiverDogs, and below the AA Thunder of Trenton, N.J., and the AAA RailRiders of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Prior to the Tampa Yankees, the Tampa Tarpons played in the Florida State League from 1957 to 1987. The Tarpons were affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds from 1961 to 1987.