Legislation for proposed ‘Stadium of the Future’ meets deadline for potential Council vote June 25

Citing upcoming budget pressures, Council President Ron Salem again calls for a separate discussion on community benefits.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 3:57 p.m. June 11, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
An aerial rendering of the Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium of the Future at the site of its current facility Downtown along the St. Johns River.
An aerial rendering of the Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium of the Future at the site of its current facility Downtown along the St. Johns River.
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Formal legislation for the proposed stadium deal between the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Jaguars was introduced June 11 to City Council, keeping the agreement on track for a potential Council vote June 25.

During an appearance before the Jacksonville Business Professionals group, Council President Ron Salem said the legislation went on file seven minutes before a noon deadline that kept his “ambitious” schedule in place for a final vote before the end of June.

Ordinance 2024-0904 contains the nine separate agreements that make up the $1.4 billion deal to renovate EverBank Stadium into the Jaguars’ “Stadium of the Future.” The deal originally was expected to comprise seven agreements, but amended leases for Miller Electric Center and Daily’s Place were bundled into the package.

Ron Salem

Speaking at Fogo de Chao in Town Center, Salem told the audience that he would prefer for one of the nine components, a $300 million community benefits agreement, to be culled out and discussed during the annual budget process. That discussion will begin after the Council’s summer break, which occurs during the first two weeks of July. 

Salem said that the $100 million that the Jaguars initially committed to the community benefits agreement would make it the largest of its type in NFL history, even without the $150 million the city offered in order to attract another $50 million from the team. 

He said he had been advised that the city’s revenues were expected to dip as much as $100 million this year and was concerned with how the community benefits agreement would affect the reduced city budget. 

With the city facing expenditures on a new jail and commitments to hundreds of millions of dollars in committed incentives for Downtown and economic development projects, he said he wanted to see how the community benefits spending would fit into Mayor Donna Deegan’s proposed 2024-25 budget. Deegan is expected to present her budget address to Council in mid-July. 

Salem added that the city had spent down its federal coronavirus pandemic relief funding and was facing a decrease in property tax revenue, which would put additional pressure on the budget.

“We understand that revenues are down, so I know it’s going be a lot tighter, and we do have some significant spending coming up the road,” he said. “And so I want to see all that before I can determine how the CBA fits in.”

He said he also had concerns about plans to include $1 million for each of the 14 Council districts to spend on parks. 

“We allocated $100 million for parks at the end of the last year or two, and much of that money has not even been spent yet,” he said. “So we have a lot of money going towards parks, and we have so many critical needs around this committee that I’d like to see that further debated.”

Deegan ranks the community benefits agreement as a high priority, saying it offers the city a chance to address critical needs such as workforce development, affordable housing and homelessness services in the Eastside neighborhood near the stadium and across the county. The package also includes $56 million for development of riverfront parks, in addition to the funding per district. 

A poll by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab found that 56% of respondents said they supported the stadium agreement with the community benefits plan attached. Support fell to 41% of respondents when asked about the stadium-only portion of the plan, minus the community benefits. 

Several Council members have raised questions about the agreement. 

Rory Diamond

Member Rory Diamond has criticized Deegan’s administration for wanting to spend $150 million in taxpayer funding to obtain an additional $50 million from the team. 

Council took up Ordinance 2024-0904 as an addendum to its June 11 meeting agenda. Salem signaled that the ordinance number didn’t come up randomly but rather was selected to match Northeast Florida’s predominant phone prefix.

As is common for ordinances that come before Council for first reading, members are not expected to take action on it. 

A public hearing on the stadium legislation is scheduled for a special Council meeting set for June 17. 

Council is scheduled to hold a workshop at 10 a.m. June 13 to hear presentations and ask questions about the community benefits agreement and other components of the package.

As the Deegan administration and team were negotiating, Salem stated that he hoped to finalize it before his term as president concludes at the end of June. 

He and Deegan both have said a Council vote before July 1 would be optimal considering that Council’s annual summer break is approaching and that attention would swing toward approving the city’s annual budget after members return to work.

Salem has committed to Council members that he will not press for a vote until their questions are answered. Toward that end, city and team negotiators held individual meetings with members in preparation for the workshops and Council meetings.

The first workshop, held June 5, yielded no signs of significant opposition from Council on the items at hand – a nonrelocation agreement, a guarantee that covered issues like payments and interest, and the city’s proposed method for funding its contributions to the deal. The workshop ended nearly two hours early, and an optional three-hour follow-up meeting was canceled. 

The Jaguars are seeking a finalized agreement in advance of the NFL owners’ meeting in October. The deal will need to draw two-thirds support from the ownership group to move forward.



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