In Jacksonville, politics become a major factor in the future of the Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts
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The citizens of Jacksonville elected a new mayor on Tuesday. The decision will definitely impact the short- and long-term future of the local NFL team.

Donna Deegan, only the second Democratic mayor in 30 years, defeated Republican Daniel Davis. Setting aside the broader implications for Florida and national politics, the question becomes whether the new mayor will be able to work out a deal with the Jaguars for major renovations to the stadium in which they have played since the team’s debut in 1995.

Over the weekend, Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union looked at some of the major issues regarding the $1 billion project. Word emerged last week that the Jaguars would be displaced for two years as the work is done.

The proposed details of the plan have been kept under wraps. Now that the election has ended, specifics could be forthcoming.

Still, the generalities with which team president Mark Lamping spoke make it clear that it’s not going to be cheap, and that the Jaguars surely will be hoping someone else will be paying for the bulk of it.

“This process [before negotiations] is very close to its conclusion,” Lamping told Frenette. “This stadium has reached the end of its useful life. We believe that we can do a renovation in a way that it delivers almost all the benefits of a new stadium, but at a significantly lower cost.

“Our vision is the equivalent of a gut rehab of a house. I think it’s premature to talk about stadium cost. We know exactly what it’s going to cost, but we don’t know if that’s exactly what’s going to be built. We need to have some reckoning with the city. We don’t know if the city’s vision is going to be the same.”

Those words underscore the importance of the looming talks. The Jaguars will want what they want. And what they have by way of leverage is an existing relationship with London, where the Jaguars currently play one game per year.

Their lease in Jacksonville expires after the 2029 season. Absent a renovation, they become free agents in 2030. With a renovation, the Jaguars likely will be required to sign a lease that will take London off the table for decades to come.

The biggest problem with the renovation is that, as proposed, it will keep the team from playing there for two years, while the stadium is essentially rebuilt. Before the election, the new mayor commented on that possibility.

“The Jaguars are an important source of pride for our city,” Deegan said. “I look forward to bringing in the best negotiators to assist me in crafting the terms for stadium improvements, ensuring they remain in Jacksonville for years to come. During construction, I expect our team to play in Jacksonville as they have for nearly thirty years. Terms of a deal will be decided thoughtfully and responsibly with input from all stakeholders, not at the height of a campaign.”

It’s unclear whether and to what extent Deegan will support significant public funding for the proposed renovations. No politician wants to be the one who presided over the departure of a pro sports team, especially at a time when the Jaguars seem to be entering their first era of sustained relevance since the Mark Brunell days.

But the broader question continues to be whether and to what extent multi-billionaires will have their football venues subsidized by those in the populace who would prefer to see the money spent on those among them who need it — not on those who have made enough to afford to buy and to maintain a superyacht.

19 responses to “In Jacksonville, politics become a major factor in the future of the Jaguars

  1. As Tempe, AZ proved last night, even when the billionaire owner is fronting the cost—it’s still hard to win an election for a new stadium.

  2. Mind you that their owner is the league’s richest owner, but the tax payers should be picking up the tab for some reason.

  3. I wish cities and counties would stop catering to pro sports teams. If no one offers them a new home, where are they going to go? It’s laughable that the NFL – a certified cash cow – has to leech off the public. Billionaires don’t need public assistance. Let them figure it out for themselves. Go ahead, move every NFL team every 15 years.

  4. This is what happens when you put a franchise in a market too small to support it. A billionaire owner expects a new stadium from one of the league’s smallest tax bases, despite putting a garbage team on the field most seasons. Warped priorities. Moving them to London almost makes better sense.

  5. I still think of the Jags as a relatively new team but, as this article points out, they’ve been in existence for nearly 30 years. God, I’m getting old…

  6. I’m not too familiar with Jacksonville venues, but is there an empty football stadium in Jacksonville that could house an NFL team for 2 years? Seems to me that Gainesville might be the closest place that could handle it if they were going to try to play some games nearby.

  7. Every time the Bears play there it is noticeable that the Bear fans essentially take over the stadium. Why build anything for a team that 1) doesn’t attract its own fans consistently enough and 2) hasn’t won anything of note.

    The latter can be said of the Bears, but they are also the beneficiaries of a rabid fan base even though they are also perennially disappointing. The fan base fills the stadium, even when the team isn’t worth the cost of admission. You can bank on that and build a stadium knowing it will be full.

    What do the Jags bring? Tell them to win something, or tell them to pack it up and go to London.

  8. realfootballfan says:
    May 17, 2023 at 10:15 am
    Mind you that their owner is the league’s richest owner, but the tax payers should be picking up the tab for some reason.
    _______________

    Rob Walton – $62.4 billion. David Tepper – $18.5 billion. Jerry Jones $13.1 billion. Stan Kroenke $12.9 billion. Shad Khan – $12.1 billion.
    Shad is nowhere near the richest owner.

  9. So Donna Deegan- a news talking head who very publicly cheated on (and humiliated) her husband- the sportscaster and then ran off with the weather man- gets the keys to the city but you vilify the owner for being rich. Got it.

  10. Guess maybe people in Florida are becoming disgusted with the utter and complete idiocy of Ron DeSantis and possibly the tides will start to shift towards sane governance in the state

  11. dadsource says:
    May 17, 2023 at 11:38 am
    So Donna Deegan- a news talking head who very publicly cheated on (and humiliated) her husband- the sportscaster and then ran off with the weather man- gets the keys to the city but you vilify the owner for being rich. Got it.
    ______________

    We’ve already proven that you know nothing about Jacksonville and have never been near the city. Just because your preferred candidate lost is no reason to slander the winner.

  12. There are one too many NFL teams in FLA already. Yet there might be room in Orlando when the Governor kicks Disneyworld out of FLA.

  13. Since the upper deck seating was covered for most of their life, I figured that the majority of them would be in like new condition.

  14. J-Ville elected a Democratic mayor? Wow!
    How did DeSantis allow that to happen?
    Must have been too busy focusing on running Disney out of the state.
    Well, I’m sure that when it’s brought to his attention he’ll get that Dem out of office in no time.
    By the way, when a Democrat wins in Florida, you KNOW that election was rigged. Go get ‘em, Ron.

  15. gibson45 says:
    May 17, 2023 at 12:10 pm
    dadsource says:
    May 17, 2023 at 11:38 am
    So Donna Deegan- a news talking head who very publicly cheated on (and humiliated) her husband- the sportscaster and then ran off with the weather man- gets the keys to the city but you vilify the owner for being rich. Got it.
    ______________

    We’ve already proven that you know nothing about Jacksonville and have never been near the city. Just because your preferred candidate lost is no reason to slander the winner.
    ———————————

    Obviously he is from Jacksonville, because that story is from over 25 years ago and is 100% true.

  16. Dolphins re-did their stadium , didn’t miss a game .Can be done if you want to $$$$$$$$.

  17. donbat67 says:
    May 18, 2023 at 6:43 pm
    Dolphins re-did their stadium , didn’t miss a game .Can be done if you want to $$$$$$$$.
    ______________________________

    Not really, I wouldn’t count put 3/4 of a roof over the stadium as completely redoing the stadium. This a complete tear down and rebuild.

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