Despite their agitation, the City Council Finance Committee members approved a $1.4 million increase toward additional seats for the annual Florida-Georgia game.
The $1.6 million cost to add 12,000 seats is up from the $280,000 needed to add 5,000 last year. Or, as council member John Crescimbeni called it, a “ridiculously huge galactic jump in price.”
Contractual obligations between the city and both the University of Florida and University of Georgia require the amount of fixed seats to accommodate the school’s season ticket holders.
Chris Hand, Mayor Alvin Brown’s chief of staff, said the costs were higher than anticipated. The current contract for the game ends after the 2016 game and the city will attempt to negotiate a future deal.
The increase comes from a combination of improved seats, a shortened timeframe for installation (because the Jaguars play at home two consecutive weeks before the game) and an increase in labor costs.
The decrease in seats came during the $63 million in renovations to EverBank Field unveiled in late July.
Committee Chair Richard Clark said he had “zero interest” in putting the annual game in jeopardy and said that when new projects are approved, operational costs debt service tends to increase.
Crescimbeni said his gripe wasn’t with the game, but about being informed about the increase. He said when he asked months ago what the increase would be, council was told by Brown’s administration it would be proportional.
To offset some of the costs, the committee voted to remove almost $113,000 in “Mayor’s Initiatives” from Brown’s budget. Those events include the annual holiday open house at City Hall, Mayor’s Environmental Awards, Education Summit and the Fanfest portion of the preseason NBA basketball game.
The $63 million in EverBank Field improvements will require taxpayers to spend another $1.4 million this year to satisfy requirements of the annual Florida-Georgia game.
Contractual requirements among the city, the University of Florida and University of Georgia call for a minimum of 82,917 seats for fans.
The past several years, the city has spent close to $300,000 to add up to 5,000 temporary seats to meet that obligation.
The EverBank Field renovations this year took out thousands of seats, meaning more will be need to be added.
The City Council Finance Committee will review the issue today when it hears from the Office of Special Events during an all-day session.
According to a Council Auditor’s Office handout for the meeting, the $1.4 million boost represents an increase in contractual equipment rental expense for seating because of the recent stadium improvements.
Last year, the cost was $280,000, this year it’s $1.6 million.
“Therefore, starting this year, the City will install more temporary seats to meet the contractual obligations for the Florida/Georgia Game. Also, the cost is increasing to provide better seating and to pay the cost of overtime associated with setup of the seats,” according to the auditor’s notes.
The game is the single-largest expenditure of the office for proposed events. It will provide the game $2.2 million, out of $3.3 million slated for 12 scheduled events.
Mayor Alvin Brown proposed the office’s budget to be $5.1 million this year, up from the $3.7 million adopted last year.
Most of it will be funded through a $5 million transfer from the general
5:15 P.M. UPDATE: