‘A great exhale’ for Jacksonville leaders after Jaguars’ funding package passes

jaguars stadium
After the Jacksonville city council voted to approve a funding plan to renovate EverBank Stadium, the team called it a touchdown. A day later, Mayor Donna Deegan, negotiator Mike Weinstein, Jaguars owner Shad Khan and team president Mark Lamping gathered for the political version of spiking the football.

It was a veritable political victory lap for the principals involved in the Jaguars’ renovation funding on Wednesday.

One day after the Jacksonville City Council voted overwhelmingly to support the $1.4 billion stadium-of-the-future renovations package, Jaguars owner Shad Khan, team president Mark Lamping, Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan and the city’s lead negotiator, Mike Weinstein, gathered at the Jaguars’ training facility, the Miller Electric Center, to spike the football after the deal was consummated.

It was a celebration weeks in the making for the quartet, who are now historically joined for at least the next 30 years.

“Ironically, Mark and I probably came to agreement six weeks ago,” Weinstein said. “It’s taken all this time for all of the lawyers to get through all the writing of it.”

Weinstein admitted that the two sides met daily at a point, usually in Lamping’s office in the stadium. Lamping called Weinstein “Columbo” after the Peter Falk character who famously began walking out of the room during an investigation only to turn back and ask, “One more thing…” leading to cracking the case.

That was Weinstein’s approach. His true challenge was to craft a story to present to the city, and to voters, that the Mayor’s office could sell. Unlike the Jaguars’ previous pitch that included a commercial development in Lot J, the story was well received by the public. Or so it seems at this point.

“My goodness, what a great exhale today is,” Deegan said. “Jacksonville very often has had a bit of an inferiority complex. Let’s believe in ourselves. Shad believes in us. The Jaguars believe in us. Hopefully, the evidence of this agreement is that we are going to make this a successful partnership for many decades to come.”

Among the most significant changes in the stadium for the Jaguars’ bottom line will be an increase in premium seats from 12,000 to 20,000.

“You also have a chance to reset certain deals, we’ll have a chance to reset our naming rights,” Lamping said. “As Shad and the Mayor indicated, while the new stadium is not necessarily going to change the population of Jacksonville overnight, the design of the stadium will bring more events to the stadium, and therefore that should have a positive impact on our naming rights. We’re certainly expecting and we need to have our local revenue grow significantly because there are going to be debt services that come along with Shad’s investment into the city-owned stadium.”

The next and final step before the renovation can begin comes in October, when the NFL owners meet. Three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve the plan, which they will certainly do.

And then, the Jaguars must finalize plans for the 2026 and 2027 seasons. The team plans on playing in EverBank Stadium in 2026 with a reduced capacity of 43,500. Then, they will vacate for the 2027 season. Where? That remains a work in progress.

“We narrowed it down to Camping World (in Orlando) and Florida Field (Gainesville),” Lamping said. “The only reason we didn’t do that is it’s a waste of energy at this point. We don’t have to make a decision right away. We did have two fact-finding trips that were made up of Jaguars business people, Jaguars football operations people, and representatives from the National Football League, who visited both Camping World Stadium and (Ben Hill Griffin) Stadium in the last 75 days.”

Finalizing the deal also should put an end to any rumors of the Jaguars leaving Jacksonville, which hung over the franchise despite never being a serious threat.

“I don’t get any joy out of proving people wrong,” Khan said. “It was their opinion. They can reflect and move on, OK? Actions always speak louder than words. From day one, it’s been, ‘Judge us by our actions.’ We’re going to have a state-of-the-art stadium. I mean, there’s absolutely no fricking reason we shouldn’t be competitive every game we go out. We expect to win. Definitely, for the Debbie Downers, last night was not a good night.”

Cole Pepper

Cole Pepper has covered professional, college and high school sports in Florida since 1996. Originally from the Kansas City area, Pepper came to Jacksonville to launch a sports radio station, the first step in a career that has included work in radio, television, and online reporting. He was the studio host for the Jaguars radio network for 15 seasons and now consults for JAX USL, the group bringing professional men's and women's soccer to northeast Florida. You can reach Cole at [email protected] or on Twitter @ColePepper


3 comments

  • the Truth

    June 26, 2024 at 8:43 pm

    show me the money,,, the pension fund is underfunded,,, she is giving a big raise to the police, fire and corrections officers, well deserved, but, still…septic tank phase out,, new jail,, taxes will go up up. up,,, Deegan will bankrupt the city, she only gave raises to police and fire, to try to win reelection

  • the Truth

    June 27, 2024 at 9:03 am

    the city will go broke and Khan gets richer

  • Mark H.

    June 27, 2024 at 3:20 pm

    Why do city leaders continue to take tax money from individuals of modest means and provide it to a billionaire for a sports stadium renovation that he could well afford himself? And with no appreciable economic return to the city according to economist J.C. Bradbury.

Comments are closed.


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