by Glenn Tschimpke
Sports and Entertainment Board member Tom Boney resigned last week, expressing his displeasure and frustration with a number of Better Jacksonville Plan initiatives.
Boney, a private developer, had spent the last eight years on the board and was up for replacement in the coming months after term limits precluded a third term. His term expired Oct. 1 and he was staying on until his replacement arrived.
In a letter to Mayor John Delaney, Boney said he “asked questions about the Better Jacksonville Plan and was told that I should not question these items.”
Boney identified the proposed equestrian facility at Cecil Field and the naming of the new baseball park and arena as points of contention.
“I wasn’t happy with the money they’re spending on an equestrian center,” he said. “Twenty million bucks is a bunch of money. It’s for a group of people that are well-heeled. If you have a horse, you probably have enough land to ride a horse. Why should you have the City pay for a facility? I’ve owned horses myself for years. I think there are a lot of needs way before that.”
Delaney replied, saying the equestrian facility is a done deal that was supported by Jacksonville residents.
“The public voted it,” said Delaney. “That was part of the Better Jacksonville referendum. It’s actually $15 million at the park and about $5 million in infrastructure work for a major recreational complex. That was part of the Better Jacksonville Plan and 57 percent of the public said, ‘This is what we want.’ Not everybody likes every element of that plan but overall I guess the public embraced the totality of it.”
Boney was also concerned about what the two new sports facilities will be named and expressed remorse that the Wolfson name would not be carried on to the new baseball park.
“The Wolfson family has done a lot for this community,” he said. “They brought Triple A baseball to this community.”
The new sports facilities will follow in the footsteps of Alltel Stadium. The City will solicit bids from businesses for naming rights to help defray the costs of building maintenance.
“The nature of the business now in the baseball park and maybe even in conjunction with the arena name is that there is some revenue that can come,” said Delaney. “We don’t keep it, it goes into the building. The same with Alltel Stadium. We had a little angst over changing the Gator Bowl name but it’s about six and a half million dollars to the public. Again, that was always part of the plan was to sell the naming rights. These are kind of done deals.”
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