Executive says the team is reviewing the future of city-owned TIAA Bank Field as its lease enters its final decade.
A quarter century after taking the field, the Jacksonville Jaguars are pursuing economic goals and facing financial and brick-and-mortar hurdles.
The NFL franchise was awarded in 1993 and began play in 1995.
Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping discussed those challenges during an interview Monday, including what improvements are needed at TIAA Bank Field as the team enters the final 10 years of its stadium lease with the city.
Lamping said those conversations with city officials have begun, and the Jaguars are conducting an internal review of the stadium’s needs.
“We know that one of the most important discussions we’ll have with the city as we prepare to extend that lease is what is the plan for the stadium,” Lamping said.
Lamping, 61, has been president of the Jaguars since February 2012. Before coming to Jacksonville, he was CEO of New Meadowlands Stadium Co., where he ran MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, home of the New York Jets and New York Giants football teams.
Lamping and Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s desire to shield fans from the heat and sun at the stadium is well known. That issue was raised in a January panel discussion hosted by Northbank and Southbank residents group The Downtown Dwellers.
He reiterated Monday that the east side of the stadium is particularly vulnerable to the sun.
Lamping also said the stadium’s concourses need to be widened, which he says are narrow compared with other NFL stadiums.
Another concern for the Jaguars is the stadium’s “vertical transportation” to make it easier to move between levels.
The Jaguars also will be looking for updates to security and technology.
Lamping declined to comment about specific solutions before the Jaguars’ full assessment was complete.
“The list goes on and on, but there are certain fundamental things that are very important to us and they all begin and end with the comfort and the experience of our fans,” Lamping said.
That doesn’t mean a new stadium.
Downtown has long been the home of the city’s stadium, built and then renovated numerous times with taxpayer money. The city built Fairfield Stadium in 1927, then upgraded and renamed the facility Gator Bowl Stadium in 1948.
In 1993, the city spent $152.8 million to rebuild the stadium as part of an effort to attract the Jaguars NFL expansion franchise.
The stadium again underwent a $63 million renovation in preparation for the Super Bowl hosted by the Jaguars in 2005.
When Khan bought the Jaguars in 2012, he partnered with the city to complete a $180 million modernization, including two 362-foot-long video scoreboards at each end zone, renovated premium seating and added in-stadium pools.
A portion of that money was used to construct the Dream Finders Homes Flex Field at Daily’s Place practice facility and the Daily’s Place amphitheater.
On Nov. 11, City Council President Scott Wilson filed legislation at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry to appropriate $920,699 to the amphitheater for capital improvements and maintenance.
What’s the sticker price for the next round of stadium improvements? Lamping said any estimate of TIAA Bank’s capital needs “would be just raw speculation at this point.”
New stadiums elsewhere
Other NFL franchises are upgrading.
The state of Nevada approved $750 million in public money to build the Raiders a 65,000-seat, $1.97 billion stadium under development now and move the team from Oakland, California, to Las Vegas, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Officials in Oakland and Alameda County still are paying off $350 million in project bonds that expanded the Coliseum to bring the Raiders from Los Angeles to Oakland in 1995, the newspaper reports.
Lamping hesitated to compare the Jaguars’ needs at TIAA Bank Field to what other NFL teams are doing with their facilities, but said Jaguars officials think issues with Jacksonville’s stadium “can be easily dealt with.”
After the assessment is complete, Jaguars officials would work with the city to generate an estimated cost for the modifications and “enter into negotiations as to how those costs would be paid” and “how they would be shared,” Lamping said.
The Jaguars lease at TIAA Bank Field runs through 2030. In any agreement with the city for stadium upgrades the franchise will “make sure we do this on a timetable that we have all of that dealt with, well in advance of getting near the end of the expiration of our lease,” Lamping said.
Lot J and The Shipyards
Lamping also talked about Khan’s proposed $2.5 billion Lot J and Shipyards development and the team’s efforts to diversify revenue streams.
More than three months after Curry announced that the city and the Jaguars had reached a $233.3 million taxpayer-backed incentive deal to partially fund Khan’s $450 million Lot J proposal, a final development agreement has not been reached.
“We are closer than we’ve ever been,” Lamping said. “We have an outline of an agreement with the city and then the devil’s in the details. We have been working collaboratively with the city to finalize a development agreement.”
Khan, through developer Jacksonville I-C Parcel One Holding Co. LLC, plans to build a 300-unit residential tower, 200-room boutique hotel, 120,000-square-foot Class A office tower and a Live! Entertainment District at the city-owned parking lot near TIAA Bank Field.
The development company is a joint venture of Gecko Investments LLC, an affiliate of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and The Cordish Companies.
Developers want to break ground by early 2020. Any incentives agreement must be approved by the Downtown Investment Authority and City Council.
Depending on when the city signs off on the final agreement, Lamping said the developers hope to “begin actual work” on Lot J near the end of the first quarter of next year.
“You know, that may be too aggressive but certainly during the first half of next year,” Lamping said. “It’s a function of finalizing our agreement with the city.”
The framework of the agreement offers up to $50 million, 50% of the development cost, for a Live! District entertainment venue; a $25 million Recapture Enhanced Value grant, which is a partial property tax rebate; $92.8 million in infrastructure improvements; and a $65.5 million development grant.
Lamping suggested the pace of the negotiations has been dictated by the complexity of the project.
“You have some pieces of the project that will continue to be owned by the city. You have environmental remediation of city-owned property. You have utility relocations. You have major infrastructure investment as it relates to streets and sidewalks and parks. So there probably isn’t an element of any type of development process that isn’t touched by this agreement,” Lamping said. “That’s what makes it so complex.”
Some basic site work has begun.
The DIA board granted the developer a 60-day license Oct. 16 to enter the site to begin environmental testing with soil and groundwater sampling.
Lamping said the Jaguars have a good idea of the issues developers will face during environmental remediation. He said there is a slurry wall in place — a reinforced concrete wall used to stabilize soft earth near high water tables.
He said workers also expect to find old gantries buried at the site.
Lot J is the Jaguars’ immediate focus, and construction on the broader Shipyards development is not likely until at least 2022.
Lamping said the Hart Bridge ramps will have to be removed before any work on the Shipyards can begin.
Combined with Lot J, Khan’s proposed developments in the Sports and Entertainment District are estimated at $2.5 billion.
Renderings released in August of Lot J included the proposed Shipyards development, showing a high-rise and another structure at Metropolitan Park.
The $38.9 million city and Florida Department of Transportation project would remove the Hart Bridge ramps at Liberty Street between Gator Bowl and A. Philip Randolph boulevards, bringing a portion of the expressway to street level.
FDOT submitted its structure plans for the project Aug. 29
The ramps removal would eliminate the physical barrier between Lot J and the Shipyards property to connect the developments.
Local revenue challenge
Lamping said Lot J and the Shipyards are examples of how the Jaguars are looking for new revenue. Another is the one game per year the team plays in London.
This is the seventh season the Jaguars played across the Atlantic. In October 2015, the team announced it would continue the commitment through the 2020 NFL season with an option to extend the agreement another five years.
Lamping said Monday the London game is important to the Jaguars’ bottom line. At a June 2017 World Affairs Council of Jacksonville luncheon, he said 15% of the team’s local revenue came from the London game during the 2016 season.
“So there is no one magic bullet that’s going to solve our local revenue challenge,” Lamping said Monday. “We believe it certainly can be solved, but it’s going to have to be solved through a combination of efforts.”