Will the Jacksonville City Council vote in January to push through the Lot J proposal from Mayor Lenny Curry and the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Not this year. Plans are for the Council to take up the measure in some form in January, with the final meeting of 2020 concluded without a vote.
To be clear, this is a delay in the timetable Curry, and the Jaguars originally wanted for the proposed entertainment district abutting the stadium.
A public notice meeting among Council members on Tuesday made it clear that the mammoth project would not have the 2/3 support it needed among the Council. And a team official noted for doubting Jacksonville’s “viability” issued another live quote.
Jaguars’ president Mark Lamping described the Jaguars as a “free agent team,” noting that other markets, such as his old stomping grounds in St. Louis, theoretically awaited if they didn’t get favorable terms.
The regular meeting, meanwhile, revealed schisms on the Council regarding the process.
Councilman Reggie Gaffney pushed for another special City Council meeting this week. Council President Tommy Hazouri resisted, saying a Jan. 7 meeting would allow time for review and allow all members to know what was being said.
“Y’all can’t do a vote. Whoever y’all is.” Hazouri said, even as he acknowledged he couldn’t stop the meetings.
Public commenters warned the Council not to sign off on over $200 million in borrowed capital spending that could end up as twice that by the time the loans are paid off.
Sen. Audrey Gibson warned that the state of Florida is in a “deep hole” and “we need to make sure there is money in the coffers to get through that hole … some programs that aren’t going to get through the budget this year.”
Meanwhile, Curry skipped the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in James Weldon Johnson Park, with protesters nearby agitated over the Lot J proposal. “Lenny Curry must resign” was among the signs, with demonstrators calling out Curry’s children in their protest.
The ugliness came after some weeks of sticker shock from local lawmakers and veiled threats from the Jaguars that the team may be moving on.
It was only last week that Lamping suggested that the team had several capital needs, including a “stadium solution.”
“We’re doing what we believe is necessary to ensure NFL football is here in Northeast Florida for decades to come,” Lamping said, saying that this project, along with a “stadium solution that will go well into the future” and a “better football team on the field” would help “ensure we stay in Jacksonville.”
“We have 10 years left on our lease. We have been talking for several years about our need to get ahead of the curve as regards to the stadium,” Lamping said, so the team didn’t “find itself in trouble” down the road.
Mayor Lenny Curry has gone on record saying the Lot J deal is necessary if Jacksonville wants to remain an NFL city. Some are skeptical of that appraisal, but Lamping’s words suggest that the moving vans may come to the Sports Complex if a deal isn’t cut.
The Jaguars have not been shy about concerns about “viability” in the market, aggressively pursuing London games in recent years to boost overall revenue, which lags amid a small market amid years of on-field failure.