50 years ago: City Commission approves Gator Bowl expansion
When the Florida Gators played the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville on Nov. 11, the teams would have a football stadium that lived up to its name.
The City Commission voted to advertise for bids to demolish the south stands of the Gator Bowl in preparation for having the arena enclosed as a true bowl.
The north stands were the same way in 1965, but were “bowled in” before that year’s game.
The renovation was expected to cost about $620,000. It would add 7,800 seats, making the capacity in the stands about 67,000.
By placing folding chairs around the playing area, the Gator Bowl’s seating capacity could be increased to about 70,000 — comparable to the Cotton and Orange bowls.
Funds for the project would come from revenue paid to the city by the Jacksonville Port Authority for purchase of the Talleyrand Docks & Terminals.
Mayor-Commissioner Lou Ritter said the city had sufficient funds to pay off the bonds on the docks and finance the stadium improvements.
• A tentative agreement to build a $111 million shipyard on Blount Island and lease it to Lockheed Aircraft Corp. was formalized by the Jacksonville Port Authority.
In an intricate move requiring approval of four resolutions, authority members voted to develop a 600-acre tract on the island and lease it to Lockheed for at least 25 years.
If the company landed a government contract, it would use the shipyard to construct several high-speed Navy transports, known as fast-deployment logistics ships.
The authority planned to meet again to adopt a fifth resolution to call for issuance of $11 million in general purpose bonds to pay for the project.
The bonds would not require a referendum, but would have to be validated by Circuit Court.
• Mayor Lou Ritter dismissed reports he would not seek re-election.
He described as “absolutely wrong” a story that he was bowing to the wisdom of 50 political friends who said his chances were slim in the wake of the Duval County grand jury’s investigation of local government.
The column, published in Washington, D.C., said Ritter might join SCOPE, a Miami-based public relations firm headed by longtime friend Scott Peek.
“I don’t know where they got that story,” Ritter said. “It was not SCOPE that was involved. I did consider a national firm in the field of sales and some public relations, but I am running for election as mayor. I will announce it officially when the city election dates are set.”
He was referring to doubts concerning the 1967 election schedule.
City officials were seeking a delay until the Legislature determined whether there would be a referendum to decide on a merger of city and county government as advocated by the Local Government Study Commission.
Ritter was appointed mayor by the City Commission in 1965 when his predecessor, Haydon Burns, was elected governor.
• Concern that a merger of all levels of government in Duval County would invite big government and result in higher taxes was raised at a public forum sponsored by the Jacksonville Jaycees.
A panel of six elected officials fielded a barrage of questions from many of the several hundred people who attended the discussion at the Civic Auditorium.
Mayor Lou Ritter was asked if he could control 21 members of City Council, the number that would be elected under the plan proposed by the Local Government Study Commission.
“I’d have to find better luck than I’m having nowadays with a much smaller city body,” he said.
• Six crates containing 46 valuable oil paintings and watercolors from English museums and private collections arrived in Jacksonville on a Dutch ship and were taken with a police escort to the Cummer Gallery of Art.
The paintings would be featured in the first exhibition in America of the Norwich (England) School, Feb. 22-April 2 at the gallery at 829 Riverside Ave.
“There’s always some risk involved in shipping valuable art. We are happy these paintings arrived safely,” said Russell MacBeth, assistant gallery director.
A highlight of the exhibit would be the arrival from Washington, D.C., of Sir Patrick Dean, British ambassador to the United States.
He planned to attend the exhibit and emphasize the importance of trade relations between the two nations.
• The city Recreation Department announced plans for its annual Valentine’s Day Lilliputian float parade in Hemming Park
The procession would feature miniature floats representing city playgrounds, decorated in red and white Valentine’s Day colors
The parade also was open to anyone who wanted to enter a float, but the size was limited to no more than 4-by-8 feet and floats had to be pulled by hand.
The Northeast Florida Heart Fund Association would sponsor the event and would award the builder of the best float a $25 U.S. Savings Bond.
• Four destroyers stationed at Mayport Naval Station left for an undisclosed location, fueling rumors they were headed for duty off the coast of Vietnam.
Public affairs personnel at Mayport and at Atlantic Fleet headquarters in Norfolk would not discuss the vessels’ destinations.
The Navy said three more destroyers were due to leave later in the month, also for an undisclosed destination.
Rumors circulating among Navy personnel at the Beaches involving ship deployment to the South China Sea had been prevalent for weeks.
• Mamma’s Fried Chicken at 3334 Beach Blvd announced a new dinner policy.
They would offer a full-course meal, served family style in crockery bowls and platters by “expert waiters.”
The menu comprised fried chicken (second helping free if requested), Abood’s famous tossed salad, rice dressing, string beans, biscuits and gravy for $1.50 per person.
• A plush 70-foot pleasure boat was damaged when it was caught in a swift current and collided with the Acosta Bridge.
Its foremast snapped in several places and a falling section struck the ship’s skipper, Ralph Hanna, 43, vice president of Jones College, breaking several ribs.
The damage to the Pious Puffin II, a Dutch motor sailer owned by Jones College, was about $10,000.
The vessel was appraised at $127,000, according to Delores Jones, wife of college president Jack Jones.
• Hal Jones and Sonja Fuller were selected king and queen at the third annual Children’s Dental Health Party at the Civic Auditorium.
They received bicycles from the Northeast District Dental Society and the Jacksonville Dental Society.
The groups made the selections from more than 400 pictures submitted by boys and girls under 15.
Named to the court of the king and queen were Frank Winterling and Ginger Williams, who each received phonograph records.