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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 6, 202005:10 AM EST

The Mendenhall Report: City seeks to pay Gator Bowl for money saved not installing seats

Paying bowl $334,725 for lost revenue is less than the cost of reconfiguring TIAA Bank Field.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

A deal between city officials and the Gator Bowl Association could leave the city contractually obligated to pay the group $334,725 in lost revenue for the 2020 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl — but the deal still will save the city money.

A memorandum of understanding dated Dec. 5 and signed by city Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes and Gator Bowl Sports President Richard Catlett states that the association would allow the city to forgo installing 2,082  seats at TIAA Bank Field if the city reimbursed it for the lost revenue.

Hughes said during a Mayor’s Budget Review Committee meeting Jan. 13 that the timing of the Dec. 29 Jacksonville Jaguars game and the Jan. 2 Gator Bowl made it more expedient to not install the seating.

An amendment to the lease in December 2016 obligates the city to install the seats, which replace the larger, club seats at midfield used for Jaguars games. The club seats reduce the stadium’s capacity and available premium seats.

In a follow-up interview, Hughes, who chairs the committee, said the association approached the city about exchanging the reimbursement for the seats in mid-November as the city and Gator Bowl officials began lease renewal discussions.

The lease between the city and the Gator Bowl Association expires March 31. 

“At a time when the Gator Bowl (administrators) were really rounding the corner of the game and thinking about it, it made more sense to have access to cash rather than the seats,” Hughes said.

Hughes said it would have cost the city more to install and remove the seats than provide the association the requested reimbursement. 

The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl attendance of 61,789 attendees didn’t reach TIAA Bank Field’s Jaguars game capacity of 69,132.

The Gator Bowl has exceeded that capacity six times since the current agreement was drafted in 1994.

The last time the game filled TIAA Bank Field was 2004 when Florida State and West Virginia brought 70,112 spectators.

City Council President Scott Wilson filed Ordinance 2020-71 on Jan. 22 at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration to approve the payment.

 The Council Auditor’s Office will review the proposed lease amendment in detail, an auditor’s spokesperson said via email Jan. 14. It will be presented to Council committees Feb. 19.

A legislative fact sheet filed with the bill states it would cost $74,275 less to compensate for the Gator Bowl than the cost to install the seats.

The fact sheet breaks down where the Gator Bowl officials told the city they lost revenue from the reduction in seats.

• Lost ticket sales: $284,810

• Lost concession sales: $19,164

• Lost merchandise revenue: $2,644

• Lost parking revenue: $28,107

Hughes said the city will be in breach of the contract if Council does not approve the reimbursement. 

Former TIAA Bank executive Kelly to join the DIA

Steven Kelly

The Downtown Investment Authority filled the last of three open staff position Jan. 6, hiring former TIAA Bank Vice President Steven Kelly to lead Downtown real estate forecasting efforts. 

The DIA’s director of Downtown real estate will produce financial reports to aid the board in decisions on real estate transactions, as well as execute terms and conditions of agreements the DIA negotiates with developers.

At TIAA Bank, Kelly was responsible for community development lending and investing. 

Kelly’s annual salary is $130,000 plus benefits.

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