The Jacksonville Jaguars will move their Lot J deal through to a final City Council vote next week, with a bill emerging from a committee of the whole meeting.
Thursday’s vote broke down 15-4.
The Jaguars made some concessions in getting City Council buy-in but emerged from the meeting with the upper hand in upcoming stadium negotiations with the city going into Tuesday’s decisive meeting.
Notably, the franchise balked at a relocation penalty proposed as a condition for the Lot J development proposal advanced by the Jaguars and Mayor Lenny Curry.
City Council floated a floor amendment during Thursday’s City Council meeting for a prorated liquidated damages provision. The provision would serve as a clawback of up to $152 million in bonded out stadium improvement money from previous projects if the team moves, which would render the reason for construction moot.
A liquidated damages provision “is a dealbreaker not just for us, but for the National Football League as well,” remarked Jaguars attorney Paul Harden.
Jaguars President Mark Lamping, who says the franchise is a “free agent team,” would not say it was a dealbreaker. Yet he contended the team has provided “evidence that we’re committed to stay here, but we have to know where we’re playing.”
The stadium has to “meet the needs of stakeholders,” and downtown has to “realize its full potential.”
“These assets are being built. We can’t pick up these assets and take them with us. They stay here,” Lamping said, describing the impact of Jaguars home games as a “small piece” to the success of the larger project.
Harden thundered that Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan had put half the money into those bygone capital deals, and the $152 million “has nothing to do with Lot J,” but with “activities that occurred many years ago,” such as a scoreboard, a flex field, and an amphitheater authorized within the last decade.
Liquidated damages, Harden said, would be better addressed in the next lease deal between the city and the team, to be negotiated this decade.
The city could ultimately, should the team move before 2034, compel Khan’s company to sell its ownership interest in Lot J and cede that money to the city.
Council member Randy DeFoor, who advanced the proposal, said the deal was about “the expectations the NFL league has of NFL cities.”
However, multiple Council members saw the issue of retiring old debt service as secondary to the agreement being negotiated, and it was clear the amendment wouldn’t move long before the vote.
A measure advanced by Council President Tommy Hazouri to strike the breadbox loan, meanwhile, occasioned a promise from Harden to try to offset at least some part of the loan with REV grant offset reductions in property tax.
“To take $65 million out of the city’s side of the equation, it kills the deal,” Harden vowed.
The proposed entertainment zone at the Sports Complex will come with a hefty city obligation beyond the breadbox loan, with upwards of $200 million on the project, including $50 million on a Live! Entertainment Venue, nearly $93 million on infrastructure, and the $65.5 million breadbox loan.
But the Mayor’s Office, the Jaguars, and Cordish got the necessary buy-in, over the objections of Hazouri and three other no votes.