Amid pushback from City Council, Jacksonville Jaguars slowwalk Lot J pitch
The future of Lot J? Image via Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Can Jaguars, Curry get the votes next year?

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.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Glenn Reihing

    December 9, 2020 at 9:16 am

    I am so over the same tired threats from stadium owners (all sports) about leaving the city if they do not get their way. A little background…

    I live in St. Petersburg. People here turned down a stadium proposal for Tropicana Field back in the late 1980’s. The stadium group took it to the Florida Supreme Court and in their decision, one justice said that if we did not like the way our council people were spending our money you could vote them out next election cycle (I’m paraphrasing here). I actively went looking for a lawyer to take this to the Supreme Court because I believed that taxpayers have the right to put safeguards on their tax dollars before that money is spent. Unfortunately, I could not find a lawyer in Florida with a backbone. Imagine that.

    Now you got the Jaguars making threats to leave despite the fact that they increased their revenue 5% over last year and NFL teams average revenue streams grossly outpace all major sports (Google: Forbes richest NFL teams).

    Here is what I recommend to the voters that are going to be saddled with this debt. Demand a cut of all parking, merchandise, concessions, and ticket sale revenue if they want an agreement for a new stadium. I don’t think that this is too much to ask since tax revenues should be going to public projects due to the pandemic rather than stadium owners. If they scream (and they will, trust me) “We create jobs!! Then have the University there do an economic evidence-based, peer-review study to show the exact overall economic impact the team has made to the area since they have been there to include both jobs that make a liveable wage and those that make minimum wage.

    Then go back to the table and negotiate. And if they walk, then you can use that money you just save and spend it where it counts…on your citizens.

  • Sonja Fitch

    December 9, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    Enough of the failures of downtown development from the landing to Springfield and Riverside! Use the tax dollars for infrastructure needs all over the County!

Comments are closed.


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