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From left, David Greene and Charles Whittemore from the University of Georgia, Mayor Alvin Brown and Doug Dickey and John L. Williams from the University of Florida at the 2012 Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Sep. 18, 201312:00 PM EST

Hall of Fame and Halloween? Landing would host new Florida-Georgia event

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The 2013 Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame and Halloween Downtown might be linked Oct. 31 if a proposal approved Tuesday by the city Sports and Entertainment Commission Board is accepted.

Alan Verlander, the city’s director of Sports and Entertainment, suggested to the board that it’s time to scrap the traditional formal reception for the Hall of Fame inductees.

Held at a nearby hotel and presented as a private, invitation-only event, Verlander said the reception has lost its appeal. He suggested staging a public celebration Thursday at the Landing to recognize the inductees the night before the annual induction luncheon on Friday.

“We could introduce the inductees and make it feel like a bigger deal,” he said.

Sports and Entertainment Commission Board Chairman Ron Salem agreed.

“The Thursday night reception has run its course. The Landing sounds like a terrific idea. I’m willing to try almost anything different,” Salem said.

Contacted after the meeting, Landing partner Toney Sleiman said having a celebration for this year’s inductees – Lindy Infante and Jevon Kearse from the University of Florida and Peter Anderson and Matt Stinchcomb from the University of Georgia – is an element he would consider.

“We’re already having a big party for Halloween. We could do both. We could figure it out,” said Sleiman.

He said Florida-Georgia weekend is the Landing’s “biggest event of the year” and he’s already planning additional food and beverage service and an outdoor stage along Independent Drive to create a street-party atmosphere.

Adding a Thursday evening element to the traditional Friday and Saturday festivities would be an asset, he said.

“We could make it crazy. It could be big,” said Sleiman.

Verlander said in addition to moving the luncheon and induction ceremony out of a tent in the parking lot and into the West Stadium Club, this year’s event will have a new format hosted by CBS Sports/NFL Today reporter Bonnie Bernstein.

No keynote speaker is scheduled this year, Verlander said. A short video promoting Jacksonville as a sports destination will be shown.

He said tickets are selling well for the Oct. 9 Orlando Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans NBA basketball game and a tribute to former Jacksonville University and NBA player Artis Gilmore is scheduled for the day before the game. Gilmore works part-time for Verlander’s office as an ambassador.

Verlander said the Sports & Entertainment staff is working with JU and the University of North Florida to attract regional and national NCAA tournaments in several sports.

Verlander and his staff are talking to the State Bowling Congress about bringing the Florida championship tournament to Jacksonville and the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Preliminary talks also are underway to bring the U.S. Curling Championship to Veterans Memorial Arena.

Also on the agenda Tuesday was Verlander’s report on the Sports and Entertainment Trust Fund.

He said the fund has a balance of $126,990.48 after a deposit of $15,000 from Formula Sports Group, collected with the assistance of the city Office of General Counsel, for sponsorship of the November 2012 Navy-Marine Corps Classic college basketball game and $10,000 from Merrill Lynch and Bank of America for the title sponsorship of the Nov. 1 Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame Luncheon at EverBank Field.

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