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Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan (center) talks to lobbyist Paul Harden before the City Council meeting began this morning. At left is Jaguars President Mark Lamping.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan makes pitch to council for $63 million in EverBank improvements

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and team officials took to City Hall on Thursday morning, pitching City Council on the need for improvements to EverBank Field.

Council is reviewing a measure that would dedicate $43 million of bed tax dollars toward the upgrades that include new scoreboards, the largest of their kind, and a new food, beverage and entertainment area with swimming pools in the north end zone.

Khan and the team would pay the remaining $20 million of the $63 million project, with the team covering any costs overruns. Khan has already spent millions renovating the locker room at the stadium.

No decisions were made this morning. The council will meet again at 1 p.m. Tuesday to possibly vote on the issue.

The Jaguars owner led the meeting off by briefly addressing the council, telling it the team is big business, a civic asset and a "world class kind of attraction" that draws economic power to Jacksonville.

The "big mission," he said, is to have a sustainable long-term franchise.

After the meeting, Khan said despite the delay in a decision, he was "very optimistic" about receiving support.

The meeting was called specifically because Khan wanted to address the council.

Jaguars President Mark Lamping said the team hasn't been afraid to address the "tough issues" and that locally generated revenue has had a "pretty consistent erosion" over the years. He said at one point, the team ranked No. 2 in the NFL in that category. Now, it's 29th or 30th in the league, which has 32 teams.

But, he said, the local interest is there and Jacksonville is a "very proud NFL town," based on TV ratings of the team and other NFL games.

Lamping said the improvements had unanimous support from other users of the stadium and would improve the experience for fans.

Khan and city officials jointly announced the improvements in June, saying they would work together to find a way to pay for the $63 million price tag.

The city's portion was not included in Mayor Alvin Brown's proposed budget, but was initially part of a capital projects plan presented by a council subcommittee during August budget hearings.

It was later taken off the list because council members had too many questions.

On Oct. 2, a day after the start of the fiscal year, Brown announced the city would pay for the stadium improvements by using a portion of the bed tax that is currently used for maintenance, repairs, improvements and expansion of sports complex facilities. That includes EverBank Field.

Duval County can levy up to a 6-cent sales tax applied to rented hotel rooms. Of that, 2 cents is used to fund Visit Jacksonville and tourism marketing, 2 cents is used to pay off debt service for the stadium (tentatively exhausted in 2031) and the remaining 2 cents will be used for the improvements.

Legislation corresponding to the move was filed Oct. 8. 

dchapman@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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