City Council approves soccer stadium; USS Orleck agreement; Downtown marine fire station

Jacksonville lawmakers voted March 14 to sell land to build a stadium for the Jacksonville Armada.

The Jacksonville City Council agreed March 14 to sell about 5 acres of land on the city's Eastside to RP Sports Investment Inc. to build a new soccer stadium for the Jacksonville Armada FC.
The Jacksonville City Council agreed March 14 to sell about 5 acres of land on the city's Eastside to RP Sports Investment Inc. to build a new soccer stadium for the Jacksonville Armada FC.
  • Government
  • Share

The Jacksonville City Council approved bills March 14 to sell land to the owner of the Jacksonville Armada FC to build a new soccer stadium on the Eastside; allow the USS Orleck naval ship museum to operate at Pier No. 1 Downtown for 10 years; and to sell riverfront land to a private company in exchange for a parcel to build a new marine fire station near the Four Seasons hotel and residence project.

Armada Soccer Stadium 

The Council agreed to sell a 5-acre property north of the Mathews Bridge Expressway to the owner of Jacksonville Armada FC for $1 to build a soccer stadium.

Council voted 16-0 on Ordinance 2023-0087 and the attached purchase agreement with RP Sports Investment Inc. for the land bounded by A. Philip Randolph Blvd. and Grant, Georgia and Albert streets on the city’s Eastside, north of TIAA Bank Field. 

Council Vice President Ron Salem and members Rory Diamond and Nick Howland were absent for the vote. 

The deal commits RP Sports to build a stadium with a minimum 2,500 seats, a 25,000-square-foot office building and 100 parking spaces by July 31, 2025. 

RP Sports has to complete site inspections by Sept. 30, according to the bill. 

Civil Engineering firm Waitz & Moye Inc. filed a service availability request and site plan with JEA that shows a 12,000 seat stadium with a 95,000-square-foot office building.

In January 2020, Council approved an option agreement with the Armada parent company to reserve the land for a stadium. At the time, Armada President and General Manager Nathan Walter said the venue could have as many as 10,000 seats.

RP Sports founder Robert Palmer bought the team from the North American Soccer League in July 2017. Palmer also is founder and owner of Lake Mary-based mortgage brokerage RP Funding Inc. 

That league folded, and the Armada currently competes in the National Premier Soccer League as an under-23 team. 

The team played for several seasons in the Baseball Grounds and then-EverBank Field before relocating to Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida. 

Another soccer club ownership group operating in the region, JAXUSL, formed in 2022 and has a franchise in the United Soccer League to begin play in 2025, according to the bill summary filed with the legislation. 

The summary says that organization announced it is hiring a sports consultant to help locate the best site to construct a 15,000-seat soccer stadium somewhere in Northeast Florida.

After the vote, Palmer tweeted a photo from Council Chambers with the comment “Who’s ready to build a stadium? … and announce going back pro, and a new jersey sponsor, and some other cool stuff. Stay tuned!” 

Jacksonville Armada FC owner and Lake Mary-based real estate broker Robert Palmer tweets March 14 from City Hall after City Council's approval of a land sale for a new soccer stadium.

USS Orleck

Council signed off on a new development agreement, a lease and 10-year licensing deal with the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association Inc. for the USS Orleck floating museum Downtown. 

The new deal comes as the nonprofit prepares to meet a March 31 deadline to move the Orleck from its temporary berth in front of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront east to Pier No. 1 at the future Shipyards West park.

Council voted 16-0 to approve the agreement after the Downtown Investment Authority Board voted 6-0 in January in favor. 

According to the legislation, the city and naval ship association have to sign the agreement by March 21.

File photo: USS Orleck Naval Museum moored in front of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront near the Downtown Northbank Riverwalk.

The vessel has been docked in front of the Hyatt since it arrived in Jacksonville in March 2022. The DIA and Council’s existing 10-year agreement for the Orleck was approved in August 2021. It was to expire in October 2022, but DIA CEO Lori Boyer extended that deadline six months. 

When the ship arrived Downtown, Pier No. 1 was not ready to support the Orleck, but the city plans to include the ship in its design of Shipyards West Park.

Council added $50,000 to the city’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget to help pay for temporary electricity and utilities connections at the pier. In December, Council approved a temporary construction easement for contractor Hal Jones to ready the pier for the Orleck.

That work is expected to be complete in time for the move, according to the naval ship association. 

AR Polar

City lawmakers approved a deal with a riverfront landowner to buy property to replace a marine fire station at the former Kids Kampus as part of Shad Khan’s Four Seasons hotel project.

Council voted 16-0 to sign off on the redevelopment and purchase and sale agreements with AR Polar Jacksonville LLC so the city can acquire an approximately 1.6-acre parcel adjacent to WJCT Media’s studio Downtown.

The deal gives AR Polar a five-year option to acquire a 4.75-acre portion of an existing retention pond adjacent to WJCT Inc.’s headquarters and south of the Hart Bridge ramp. 

Google Earth: An aerial view of the land and retention pond Downtown that's part of a sale with private company AR Polar.

WJCT 89.9 FM is a news partner of the Daily Record.

In exchange, the company will provide the city with the 1.6-acre parcel within its 20.37-acre property that has access to the St. Johns River to build the new marine fire station. 

AR Polar’s land is next to WJCT, Metropolitan Park and the St. Johns River.

The station will service the Downtown riverfront, but the Downtown Investment Authority noted in December that the city had to begin work in support of the estimated $387.6 million Four Seasons hotel and residences and office building.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration budgeted $14 million for the relocation of the marine fire station and dock. The money is included as a public investment line item in the revised $129.75 million incentive package for the Four Seasons project before City Council. 

The city approved a demolition permit Nov. 30 for PCL Construction to remove the 3,040-square-foot Marine Fire Station and restrooms building at 1406 Gator Bowl Blvd. at a cost of $40,000.

According to DIA CEO Lori Boyer, the retention pond is meant for water runoff filtration and not flood/stormwater capture. 

She said the city Department of Public Works told DIA staff there is enough water filtration capacity elsewhere in Downtown to not require replacement of the pond.



Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.