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Jax Daily Record Friday, May. 16, 201412:00 PM EST

Tourism council OKs $25,000 for Fulham marketing ads now, maybe more later

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The city’s interim sports and entertainment director pitched a $200,000 marketing program Thursday before the Duval County Tourist Development Council to bring more visitors to Jacksonville.

When Joel Lamp left the meeting, he had a commitment for only $25,000.

The proposal was to use tourist development funds to purchase in-game marketing assets from Fulham Football Club, the London-based soccer team owned by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

Fulham FC will play D.C. United from Major League Soccer in a friendly match July 26 at EverBank Stadium. The match will be followed by a performance by country music artist Carrie Underwood.

Lamp said the funds requests would be used over the next two years to market Jacksonville in London to Fulham’s hometown fans.

“It’s not just in support of the game,” Lamp said. “It will keep Jacksonville in people’s minds in London.”

That would be accomplished, he said, through signage at Craven Cottage, Fulham’s home pitch.

A portion of the funds would be used to “reach out to fans” in London and also to the four Fulham fan clubs in the United States.

Lamp said Fulham plans to play a match in Jacksonville every year and the 2015 match could bring enough fans to Jacksonville to generate as many as 3,000 room nights in local hotels.

The majority of fans at this year’s match will be local residents. Jaguars season ticket holders are being offered free tickets for the match and concert.

The Florida Sports Foundation has contributed $50,000 to support this year’s match and the city has contributed $10,000 for expenses.

Paul Astleford, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville, the Jacksonville and the Beaches convention and visitors bureau, said the organization is spending money and staff time to help market the match and objected to the size of the grant request.

“Making the TDC the point of resource allows the city to underfund sports and entertainment,” he said.

City Council member Warren Jones said supporting the match this year and next year represents a “marketing opportunity” and made a motion to grant $50,000 for the proposal.

His motion received no second.

Board member Sonny Bhikha made a motion to grant $25,000 and allow Lamp to return to the board in August with a better-defined marketing plan and budget for the remainder of the $200,000 request.

The motion was approved with the condition that tickets for the match and concert will be made available to the general public.

“If city money is spent, the public should be allowed to purchase tickets,” said board member M.G. Orender.

Jaguars spokesman Dan Edwards said tickets will be available to the general public sometime in June after season ticket holders have reserved their seats and the number and location of seats that will not be available due to construction of the staging for the concert has been determined.

The board also approved $400,000 for the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, the former Gator Bowl college football game.

Gator Bowl Sports President Rick Catlett said the name change is part of the new six-year title sponsor agreement with

Also beginning with the Jan. 2 game are six-year agreements with ESPN and the Southeastern Conference, the Big 10 Conference And the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He said the move to Jan. 2 means when the TaxSlayer Bowl kicks off at 3:20 p.m., it will be the only college bowl game on television in the time slot.

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