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Philip Ayles speaks in support of the stadium deal at a Mandarin community huddle on May 15, 2024. | Casmira Harrison, Jacksonville Today

Cheers, skepticism at first ‘community huddle’ on Jags stadium renovation

Published on May 15, 2024 at 9:51 pm

A little over 150 people filled the seats at the Mandarin High School auditorium on Wednesday evening to participate in the the first of five “community huddles” on the proposed Stadium of the Future, a renovation project that would cost taxpayers more than $775 million.

For about an hour, Mayor Donna Deegan, Jaguars President Mark Lamping and the city’s chief negotiator, Mike Weinstein, presented the details of the proposed renovation to the public for the first time. Several attendees were then able to ask questions.  

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Mayor Donna Deegan answers an audience question, seated beside Jaguars President Mark Lamping and city negotiator Mike Weinstein | Casmira Harrison, Jacksonville Today

The questions included how the deal would affect season ticket holders and whether a remodel would aid in parking and traffic flow near the stadium.

Several in the audience cheered on a potential sealed deal.

“This is one of the most beneficial things that we can do for our community,” said Philip Ayles, a life coach who helps military veterans transition to civilian life. Ayles wore Jaguars colors to the event and said the team brings spirit to a wide cross section of people.  “What it does is allows us to come together.”

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Others in attendance appeared to view the deal more critically, and they voiced those concerns as Mandarin City Council member Michael Boylan listened nearby.

City Council member Michael Boylan listens to community members’ questions at the Jaguars’ “community huddle” on May 15, 2024. | Casmira Harrison, Jacksonville Today

The skeptics included Southside resident George Carroll, who wanted to know, “Should this go to a referendum?”

“I believe the referendum was my election back in May,” Deegan replied, restating an answer she has given in the past to the same question. “This is my job… Same with the City Council. They were elected to do what’s best for the city of Jacksonville. If we start putting every leadership decision to referendum, we’re not going to get a whole lot done in the city, I can tell you that.”

Southside resident George Carroll asks why the stadium deal can’t be put to a public referendum at the Mandarin “community huddle” on May 15, 2024. | Casmira Harrison, Jacksonville Today

Deegan urged the audience to look the deal over.

“Honestly, you’re gonna find that it is a fair and good agreement for the city, for the Jaguars and for the community,” said the mayor.


author image Reporter

Casmira Harrison is a Jacksonville Today reporter focusing on local government in Duval County.

Harrison can be reached at casmira@jaxtoday.org.

author image Reporter

Casmira Harrison is a Jacksonville Today reporter focusing on local government in Duval County.

Harrison can be reached at casmira@jaxtoday.org.


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