The Jacksonville Jaguars have proposed renovating EverBank Stadium into the "Stadium of the Future."The Jacksonville Jaguars have proposed renovating EverBank Stadium into the "Stadium of the Future."
The Jacksonville Jaguars have proposed renovating EverBank Stadium into the "Stadium of the Future."

Public supports stadium plan if community needs are funded

Published on May 28, 2024 at 4:05 pm

Duval County residents show more support for a $1.4 billion renovation of EverBank Stadium when the plan includes $300 million for community needs, according to a poll released Tuesday by the University of North Florida.

According to the agreement between the city and the Jaguars, the two sides would put $150 million each toward workforce development, park upgrades, affordable housing and homeless solutions across Duval County.

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The $150 million would be on top of public funds the city would spend for stadium renovations. Under the agreement, announced earlier this month, the city would put $775 million toward renovations while the Jags would put in $665 million — a split of 55%-45%.

The city’s share is $150 million higher because it would pay for deferred maintenance and startup costs. The Jags would cover any cost overruns.

The UNF poll said 56% of the respondents supported the total package, with $925 million in public funds for stadium renovations and community investment. Forty-three percent opposed that idea.

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Without the community benefits, 58% of respondents opposed the public funds for stadium renovations. Forty-one percent supported it, and 1% didn’t know or refused to answer.

Mike Binder, director of the public opinion research lab at UNF, said participants who approved the public money were largely persuaded by the community benefits agreement.

“Some of the minor details, like the Jags’ eating cost overruns and things of that nature, are positive and supported by the community generally. But this [community benefits agreement] is really the only thing that’s keeping this stadium deal above water,” Binder said Tuesday on First Coast Connect, a program of WJCT News 89.9.

In response to the poll, the city and Jaguars released a joint statement Tuesday. The statement said the community benefits agreement is an integral part of the overall stadium renovation proposal and would provide overdue investments to benefit the entire community without raising taxes.

“The respondents see the wisdom of making the city investment up front, which will pay dividends over decades to come. It locks in construction contracts before prices increase. The significant long-term financial support from the Jaguars will sustain these programs over time. It’s a win-win,” the statement said.

The stadium renovation agreement still needs approval from Jacksonville City Council and at least 75% of NFL owners before construction could begin. If all that happens, construction of “the Stadium of the Future” could begin in February 2025.

On other issues

The UNF poll combined web and phone surveys with 667 registered Duval County voters between May 21 and 23. The overall margin of error was +/- 4.7 percentage points.

Besides the stadium, the poll found:

  • In an open-ended question, respondents were asked their top priority for the investment of tax dollars in the city of Jacksonville. The most popular response with 23% was infrastructure and roads, followed by education and schools with 19% and public safety and police with 13%. Four percent of respondents said Downtown revitalization, and 3% said the stadium and the Jaguars. Ten percent didn’t know or refused to answer.
  • Asked specifically about Downtown development, 39% said investing in downtown is crucial to Jacksonville’s growth and development, and 28% said they had some reservations, despite seeing the potential benefits. Nineteen percent expressed hesitancy, saying there are better uses for tax dollars, while 14% said they are firmly against spending public funds Downtown. “In a city where 70% of its residents either never go downtown or do so only a few times per year for leisure, I am stunned that so many people are committed to Downtown investment,” Binder said.
  • Mayor Donna Deegan had a relatively strong approval rating, with 63% approving and 28% disapproving. “A little less than a year in office and Mayor Deegan’s approval is 63%,” Binder said. “Jax mayors have traditionally had positive approval ratings, but these are great numbers for the rookie mayor who has faced a number of early tests.”
  • Sheriff T.K. Waters received 64% approval and 26% disapproval. State Attorney Melissa Nelson received 61% approval and 20% disapproval, with 19% who did not know or refused to answer. City Council’s approval rating was somewhat lower, with 48% approving and 42% disapproving.
  • Jags owner Shad Khan received 60% approval and 32% disapproval.

Duval County jail

Another major infrastructure question coming up for officials is the possibility of moving the Duval County jail.

A special committee to discuss the future of the jail released a draft of its final report earlier this month. The report suggested replacing the current jail with a new campus-style facility somewhere near Downtown. The cost of building a new facility is estimated to be over $1 billion.

The UNF poll asked people whether they support or oppose spending more than a billion dollars in public funds to move the jail. Seventy-three percent said they supported moving the jail away from Downtown while 24% said they opposed it.

Binder said he believes that public opinion on this issue might change over the years since he believes a large project like this one could see a potential tax increase to foot the bill.

“We’re out of funny money when it comes to a billion dollars for a jail like you’ve got to pay for that,” Binder said. “You need to pay contractors, that’s real money and eventually somehow you either got to raise or you got to cut. And whatever that ultimately ends up being, I think some of that support might come down once we find out what that would actually be,” .

Getting a new jail won’t happen anytime soon. The city is at least five years away from seeing a new jail completed.


author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.

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