The Jacksonville Jaguars have proposed the team and city share the cost of renovating EverBank Stadium. | Jacksonville JaguarsThe Jacksonville Jaguars have proposed the team and city share the cost of renovating EverBank Stadium. | Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars have proposed the team and city share the cost of renovating EverBank Stadium. | Jacksonville Jaguars

City Council OKs $1.4B ‘Stadium of the Future’ deal

Published on June 25, 2024 at 10:38 pm

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ $1.4 billion “Stadium of the Future” is a go.

In a 14-1 vote, City Council on Tuesday gave its seal of approval for the deal between the city and the team to rebuild the municipal stadium. Council members Terrence Freeman and Kevin Carrico abstained and Ju’Coby Pittman and Rory Diamond were absent.  

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“By your vote, we have scored a touchdown,” proclaimed outgoing Council President Ron Salem following the vote.

After the council returns from its July break, the body is expected to take up the remaining portion of the deal — what remains in the community benefits agreement to cover funding outside the stadium for a wide range of public services and projects. After that, the entire deal goes to the NFL team owners for their approval.

‘Let’s celebrate like it’s 1993’

Jaguars President Mark Lamping told the council Tuesday that the process had been both marathon and sprint.

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“So we have an agreement,” Lamping said. “That means soon we will have more work to do. But tonight, let’s celebrate like it’s 1993. We did it again.”

Lamping’s comments after the vote were witnessed by 14 former members of the city council who voted on the original Jaguars lease back in the ‘90s.

Not everyone agreed with the deal as it stood, however.

Council member Mike Gay, a contractor whose company has done previous work at EverBank Stadium, said he passed up the opportunity to work on the upcoming renovations so he could vote on the deal and, in the end, Gay was the single vote against the agreement.

“I see so many things here that need to be corrected that I just can’t go along with it,” Gay said. “You know, I’m very concerned about the future finances of our city… I tried from the beginning when I came into office to be involved with the negotiations but just received one brief meeting.”

He also said standard construction practices weren’t being followed, and he took issue with the city’s plan to pay for the upgrades by shifting money from a half-penny sales tax to avoid paying debt on other, already-approved city projects.

“It’s also concerning that, you know, we’re manipulating the Better Jacksonville Plan, you know, with what we’re doing,” Gay said. “I know we can do better. We owe it to our citizens.”

And despite the overwhelming support for the stadium renovation package, there also remains concern among council members about the part of the community benefits agreement that remains to be discussed. 

The original agreement included $300 million — split 50-50 between the Jaguars and the city  — in investment across town, including the Eastside neighborhood close to the stadium. As passed Tuesday, council has agreed only on funding for parks that was originally in the CBA. 

Council member Michael Boylan said he did not want to see the city “kick the can down the road” on the remainder of the CBA. 

In response, incoming Council President Randy White said, while he feels there are “too many questions” regarding the benefits agreement, “it will not be dragged out.”

‘It’s a challenge for all of us’

Council member Ken Amaro called his vote “challenging,” but ultimately the numbers looked good to him.

“While I’ve been sitting here I’ve been receiving emails regarding this legislation,” Amaro said, and some of his Arlington constituents were asking him to vote no. “It’s a challenge for all of us.”

Amaro said he is confident in White’s ability to lead the council through passage of the rest of the community benefits agreement in July.

“We own this property. We are the landlord. The Jags are the tenants, and the tenants in this case have decided to dig into their pockets to make this happen,” said Amaro.

During public comment, several residents remained disappointed in the delay on the benefits agreement. Dozens of Jacksonville residents approached the lectern at City Hall Tuesday to chastise City Council members for breaking apart the deal.

Resident Zuri Davis demanded the council reinstate the intact agreement. “We demand for city council to listen to the residents of Jacksonville. If the city has millions of dollars for the stadium, they surely have it for our communities as well.”

Michelle Braun, chair of LIFT Jax and former president of United Way of Northeast Florida, urges the City Council on Tuesday to follow through on the part of the community benefits agreement that was severed from the stadium deal before the vote. | Screenshot; City of Jacksonville livestream

Mayor Donna Deegan, after the final vote, vowed that the Out East area would see the progress that community members have been so patient for.

“To all of you who mentioned how disappointed you were that this agreement was split apart: You know, I was too,” said Deegan. “But, you know what? It will just offer us another opportunity to come together and to create an agreement that will be good for Jacksonville — and I know we will do it, and the folks Out East have been patient, and I know we’re gonna get it done for them.”

Lamping assured leaders that the team is committed to following through.

“Our commitment… is unchanged,” Lamping said. “We will advocate to the best of our ability to ensure that the $75 million that we had included (and) targeted to the East Side remains, and we certainly would hope this body  — when you take it up  — that portion of the dollars from the Jaguars, $75 million that was targeted towards the Out East – that that will remain.”

He added that the city will benefit greatly from the overall agreement.

“We are meeting the challenge of achieving two vital goals for our community: securing the future of the Jaguars in Jacksonville for generations to come and setting the stage to change Jacksonville forever,” Lamping said.

In an emailed statement sent from the city’s communications office, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said, “the belief and determination of Delores and Wayne Weaver to make the Jacksonville Jaguars a reality more than 30 years ago was reaffirmed today by the leadership of Mayor Donna Deegan, her team and the Jacksonville City Council.”

“The message then, and now, should be clear,” Khan stated. “Never doubt Jacksonville!”

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

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