New city contract for Florida-Georgia game includes higher payouts

Deal secures the annual rivalry game at TIAA Bank Field through 2023 with an option to host through 2025.

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Days before the Oct. 30 kickoff, city leaders secured TIAA Bank Field as the site for the annual Florida-Georgia football game through at least 2023.

City Council voted 18-0 on Oct. 26 to enter a new contract with the athletic associations of the universities of Florida and Georgia to play the game in Jacksonville for the next three years. 

The contract has a two-year option for the city to host the game in 2024 and 2025.

After the vote, Mayor Lenny Curry thanked Council members in a tweet for “keeping this rivalry where it belongs.” 

“Pleased to see our City Council unanimously approved a new contract that will keep one of our great traditions in #Jacksonville through 2025,” Curry wrote.

For this year’s game, temporary seating will not be installed in the stadium’s north end zone. Instead, the city will pay each school $400,000 for the lost ticket revenue. 

City Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes said the decision to remove the seating was made with the schools’ athletic officials to increase the fan experience and for COVID-19 concerns. 

According to Daily Record news partner, that is a nearly 6,000-seat reduction.

Under the new contract, the city will pay each school a $1 million royalty for this year’s game. 

That rises to $1.25 million per school in 2022 and 2023 and $1.5 million each if the athletic associations agree to the extension for 2024 and 2025.

Council approved the emergency bill that reinstates $2.447 million budgeted for the Southeastern Conference football matchup. 

City lawmakers held back appropriating the money when Council approved the fiscal year 2021-22 budget in September until the contract was finalized 

Hughes told Council members the contract needed to be signed before this year’s game.

Council Auditor Kim Taylor said in an email Oct. 25 that the city is budgeted to receive $415,209 from ticket sales and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ required contribution to the game.

The new contract allows the city to receive revenue from game sponsorship rights. 

“It (the new agreement) increased some guaranteed payouts to the schools and in exchange, the city has a number of additional revenue-sharing models built into the new agreement related to sponsorships and other revenue sharing,” Hughes said at the Oct. 25 Mayor’s Budget Review Committee meeting.

The city also can earn revenue from sponsorship agreements at city-hosted events related to the game, Taylor said.

The legislative summary filed with the bill says the city will be paid 10% of the adjusted merchandise revenue the teams collect from the game.

Jacksonville has hosted the college football rivalry game since 1933. Council approved a similar contract in 2019, but the pandemic made the future of a full-capacity stadium for the game uncertain. 

In fiscal year 2020-21, Council and the Curry administration reappropriated some of the money reserved for the Florida-Georgia game after the crowd capacity was reduced.