By Memorial Day, and likely “well in advance,” Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping expects performances to kick off at the amphitheater planned outside the south end zone of EverBank Field.
Toward that goal, civil engineering and landscape plans dated Friday were filed with the city. Lamping said work has begun on the amphitheater and adjacent practice field, with a ceremonial groundbreaking expected in mid-July.
Lamping likens the amphitheater to the size of Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
“If you’ve been there and if you think that’s an intimate theater and a great place to see a show, then we’re going to give you something that’s going to replicate it,” he said.
“If you think it’s a terrible theater, then welcome to your worst nightmare I guess,” he joked last week with the Jacksonville Bankruptcy Bar Association.
The Jacksonville amphitheater will offer 3,500 fixed seats at ground level and two balconies of 1,000 seats each.
With standing room for performances that bring folks to their feet, capacity will reach just more than 6,000, Lamping said.
He said it will be under cover, while the sides are open.
Civil engineer England, Thims & Miller submitted the plans, designed on 9.3 acres along EverBank Field Drive. A formal ground-breaking is expected in mid-July, depending on the schedules of Jaguars owner Shad Khan and Mayor Lenny Curry, he said.
The city approved initial site demolition June 7.
Lamping expects the projects to be completed in April. The Jaguars will start using the practice field, also called a flex field, as soon as it’s ready.
“And we’ll start hosting concerts and hopefully bring even more excitement to Downtown Jacksonville,” Lamping said Friday at the stadium during media availability for the Rookie Transition Program.
The project consists of the amphitheater and flex field, installation of underground utilities, clearing and grading, hardscape, parking areas and associated construction.
Considered Phase II of EverBank Field improvements, the Hunt + Danis joint venture is accepting bid packages for the amphitheater and covered flex field.
Bid due dates began June 10 and tentatively run through Sept. 16 for the final work, such as signage and graphics.
The $65 million project is part of the $90 million renovations and upgrades shared by the city, through the bed tax, and the Jaguars.
Lamping expects a certificate of occupancy soon for the US Assure Club upgrades to be ready in time for the scrimmage the first week of August. That project is $25 million.
The flex field can be used for indoor practice for the team and on game day for customer and fan activities.
Lamping said the technical definition of an amphitheater — an open space with tiered seating rising around it — doesn’t really fit the project, so it “probably is better described as an open performing arts center.”
The flex field and the amphitheater are connected to the south end zone of EverBank Field through the south end zone tunnel.
“We wanted it to work with the existing stadium” to take advantage of the infrastructure in EverBank Field, such as food and beverage services, the locker room and storage.
“We want to make it as impressive as it can be. We think it’s a really important development for Downtown,” he said.
No grand-opening activities have been planned, but it won’t be a “one-event type thing.”
“We want to be able to include as much of the community as we possibly can, so it could be a series of events over the course of a week,” he said.
Lamping said discussions are taking place with promoters and contract providers, but he doesn’t expect an exclusive arrangement.
“Our goal is to have as many shows as possible,” he said, adding it could be up to 45 events a year.
Lamping, 57, said the amphitheater size is the “sweet spot” of the industry, attracting “bands that are on the way up, you get bands that are on the way down, like the bands that I followed when I was in high school, and really popular bands” that might do shows a little different than their usual ones.
The amphitheater can bring in concerts to make home games a weekend event — think a performance on Saturday and the Jaguars on Sunday.
“We only have seven regular season home games. There’s no reason we can’t make seven weekends really special Downtown and coordinate with the other stakeholders Downtown to try to accomplish that,” he said.
Local institutions, like the Jacksonville Symphony, also can be expected.
He said the focus is not only on the sidelines and the acoustics and the services for fans, but also on making the experience for the artist “over the top.”
There’s also synergy with the practice field. Think musician and golf fanatic Darius Rucker setting up a driving net inside the practice facility and having PGA Tour pro and area resident Jim Furyk giving lessons.
“Something like that we can do in this marketplace,” he said. “We really need to focus on that and the experience can be as good as possible. Whether we pull that off or not, time will tell.”