It’s a deal: Jacksonville City Council approves stadium agreement with Jaguars

The last hurdle for the $1.4 billion stadium is a vote by the NFL owners group in October.

  • By Ric Anderson
  • | 10:02 p.m. June 25, 2024
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The Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium of the Future.
The Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium of the Future.
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The Jacksonville Jaguars’ “Stadium of the Future” took a big step toward becoming a present-day reality June 25 when the Jacksonville City Council finalized a deal to revamp and modernize EverBank Stadium and keep the team in it for the next three decades.

Council members voted 14-1 with two abstentions on a $1.45 billion package of legislation that includes funding for the stadium’s makeover, a 30-year lease, a nonrelocation agreement and $56 million in spending on riverfront parks and the stadium-adjacent flex field. Contained in Ordinance 2024-0904, the deal includes $775 million in public funding for the stadium, the most expensive single capital project in the city’s history. 

With the vote, the Jaguars now will take the agreement to the NFL owners group when it meets in October. The team needs a two-thirds majority vote from the owners to proceed. 

“Tonight, let’s party like it’s 1993. We did it again,” team President Mark Lamping told Council members, referring to the year when Jacksonville was awarded the NFL franchise.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

In a statement after the vote, Jaguars owner Shad Khan also referenced the team’s origins.

“The belief and determination of Delores and Wayne Weaver to make the Jacksonville Jaguars a reality more than 30 years ago was reaffirmed today by the leadership of Mayor Donna Deegan, her team and the Jacksonville City Council. The message then, and now, should be clear. Never doubt Jacksonville!,” Khan said in a statement after the vote.

Members who voted for the ordinance were Council President Ron Salem and Council members Randy White, Ken Amaro, Raul Arias, Michael Boylan, Joe Carlucci, Matt Carlucci, Tyrona Clark-Murray, Nick Howland, Reggie Gaffney Jr., Rahman Johnson, Will Lahnen, Chris Miller and Jimmy Peluso. Voting no was Council member Mike Gay. 

Abstaining were Council members Kevin Carrico and Terrance Freeman.

Council Member Rory Diamond, a judge advocate general for the Florida National Guard, was on military leave with excused absence. Council member Ju’Coby Pittman also was absent for the vote.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan speaks to the City Council on June 25 after the vote approving the "Stadium of the Future" agreement with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
City of Jacksonville

“This day has been a long time coming. I am truly grateful for the partnership with the Jaguars throughout the negotiation process, and to the City Council for passing this historic deal. Together, we are turning renderings into reality for the betterment of Jacksonville,” Deegan said in a statement after the vote.

Salem, who had set what he called an “aggressive” schedule to approve the deal over a two-week timeline versus the usual six-week cycle for Council legislation, reacted in a celebratory way after the vote totals were posted.

“By your vote, we have scored a touchdown,” he said. 

Jacksonville City Council President Ron Salem speaks after the Council approved the "Stadium of the Future" agreement with the Jacksonville Jaguars on June 25.

He called Jacksonville “the envy of the sports industry” for working smoothly through the process, unlike other cities such as Tampa Bay and Kansas City, Missouri, where stadium deals have been divisive.

Gay said he believed there was a “great deal wrong” with the deal and that it needed to be studied further. 

“I know we can do better. We can pause this and look to do a deeper dive,” he said. “What we do tonight will echo into eternity. I implore you to take this to heart and let’s be cautious and be a good steward.”

The agreement and support

The deal calls for the team and city to each contribute $625 million for construction, with the city adding $150 million for deferred maintenance and capital improvements to prepare EverBank Stadium for the project and make it usable for the Jaguars during the 2025 and 2026 seasons.

The team’s timeline calls for the stadium construction to begin in 2025, with capacity virtually unchanged in that year.

As construction proceeds, capacity will be reduced to about 43,500 in 2026 with the upper seating sections closed. In 2027, the team would play either in Gainesville or Orlando, but with the option to play up to three home games in London. 

The remade stadium would open in 2028.

Daniel Davis

The stadium deal drew strong support from business and civic organizations such as the JAX Chamber and the Jacksonville Civic Council, with chamber CEO Daniel Davis telling Council members that retaining Jacksonville’s status as an NFL city was critical to the organization’s efforts to attract new businesses and skilled job seekers. 

In a display of unity after their competition as candidates in the 2023 mayoral election, Davis and Deegan entered the Council chamber together and sat side by side during the vote.

“I think the mayor was correct: It’s amazing what you can do as a city when everybody comes together,” Davis said afterward.

He said the outcome would benefit Jacksonville’s business community and economy.

“You want to attract the best talent, because that’s the battleground for economic development. And I think this is a huge step forward for us to be able to do that. Building up Downtown also is incredibly important to be able to attract that talent, so this is also a big step.”

Shading fans

The vote culminated a yearlong process that began with the Jaguars unveiling their plans for the upgraded stadium in June 2023. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium of the Future.

Plans include a shade cover that will protect all seating areas from sunlight and rain, an open-air design that will produce cross-ventilation through spaces at the corners, an elevated and expanded concourse that will include observation decks offering views of the St. Johns River and Downtown skyline, a reflective exterior material that is designed to reduce heat, an artificial playing surface, new concessions and beverage options, and more.

The new stadium will be downsized from 67,814 to 62,000 seats, with the ability to expand capacity to 71,500 for college football games and concerts. 

An adjacent entertainment district, at a cost the city estimated at $668 million, is not part of the agreement. The district, which would have involved a city contribution of up to $100 million, was never seriously discussed as part of the stadium negotiations.

More deal details

Under the lease agreement, the team will pay the city a base rent of $1 million a year. That money will go into operations, utilities and an events fund along with revenue from third-party events and surcharges on tickets and parking. 

The audience at the Jacksonville City Council meeting applauds after the "Stadium of the Future" vote June 25.
Photo by Ric Anderson

In the nonrelocation agreement, the Jags would pay back 100% of the public funding if the team moves during the first through 14th years of the lease. After that comes a sliding scale that decreases the repayment by 6.25% per year, reducing it to 93.75% in the 15th year down to 6.25% in the 29th year.

A move in the final year of the lease would require no repayment. The agreement also allows the city to seek the costs of demolishing the stadium from the team in the event of relocation. In all cases, the city would first be required to seek “equitable relief,” such as payment with property assets as opposed to money. 

The Jaguars agreed to pay for all cost overruns not caused by the city. 

Funding the renovation

To pay its share of the costs, the city’s plan revolves around shifting projects out of its Capital Improvement Plan, which is paid for mostly through borrowed funding, and paying for those projects instead with funding generated by a voter-approved sales tax increase called the Better Jacksonville Plan. 

The Jacksonville City Council vote approving the Jacksonville Jaguars "Stadium of the Future" is shown on screens June 25 at City Hall.
Photo by Ric Anderson

That increase was designed to fund city infrastructure improvements over a 30-year period, but Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration took action to sunset it in 2026, four years before it was permitted to be in effect, to allow for an early onset of an additional voter-approved sales tax increase to pay off the city’s unfunded pension liability. The pension tax increase is scheduled to immediately follow the Better Jacksonville Plan increase.

With the Better Jacksonville Plan in effect for its full 30 years, the city would shift $600 million of projects out of the Capital Improvement Plan and pay for them with Better Jacksonville Plan revenue. 

The city would then pay for stadium improvements out of the Capital Improvement Plan. 

The Council Auditor’s Office agreed that projects could be shifted back to the Better Jacksonville Plan and reported that the approach would save the city $25 million annually in general fund expenses. The $25 million figure was derived from a $40 million savings in annual debt payments on the projects minus $15 million in pension contributions that would be saved if the pension liability tax increase took effect early.

Although the start of the pension tax would be delayed, the auditor’s office reported that it would pay down the pension debt liability several years before its sunset. Like the Better Jacksonville Plan, the tax increase was designed to be in effect for up to 30 years. 

A quick turnaround

On May 14, Deegan presented the framework of the agreement to City Council. Deegan, her lead negotiator, Mike Weinstein, and Lamping then held a series of community meetings over the following two weeks to present details on the plans and invite public input on them.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan, Jaguars President Mark Lamping and city lead negotiator Mike Weinstein met with citizens May 15 at Mandarin High School to discuss plans for the Stadium of the Future renovation of EverBank Stadium.
Photo by Ric Anderson

At those meetings, attendees were generally supportive of the deal, which involves less public funding than other recent stadium agreements, including for the Buffalo Bills ($850 million) and the Tennessee Titans ($1.2 billion). It was similar to the $750 million in public financing that the state of Nevada contributed in 2016 to build Allegiant Stadium, the home of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Some residents urged Deegan to hold a referendum on the deal, to which she responded that her election in 2023 – after a campaign in which she stated strong support for city funding for a stadium upgrade – amounted to a public vote on the agreement. 

Deegan, Weinstein and Lamping also fielded criticism about the economic benefits of the deal for the city, concerns about the project’s effects on the surrounding low-income neighborhood and questions as to why the city needed to help fund a project when Khan’s worth is estimated at higher than $12.3 billion. 

Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping speaks to City Council on June 25 after it approved the "Stadium of the Future" agreement with the NFL team.
City of Jacksonville

Lamping emphasized Khan’s investment, not just in the stadium but in Downtown Jacksonville. Through Khan’s real estate company, Iguana Investments, he is spending more than $250 million on a Four Seasons hotel and office building on a site south of the stadium across Gator Bowl Boulevard. 

Community benefits unresolved

The original stadium deal included an additional $94 million from the city for workforce development, affordable housing and homelessness services for the Eastside neighborhood north of the stadium and countywide. Of that, $30 million was for the Eastside. 

That funding was included in a community benefits agreement that called for the city and team to each put up $150 million, which included the $56 million for city parks. 

Residents of OutEast, the neighborhood north of EverBank Stadium, gather at City Hall on June 17 for a City Council meeting about the Jacksonville Jaguars "Stadium of the Future" agreement. Their shirts read "Believe in OutEast."
Photo by Ric Anderson

The Jaguars entered the negotiations offering $100 million in benefits without any matching funding from the city, which alone would have been the largest package in NFL history. Deegan and her team offered $150 million to secure an additional $50 million from the team.

Deegan strongly supported the benefits package, saying it would create a “once-in-a-generation” effect on the neighborhood and city.

Some Council members raised concerns about how the spending would affect the city budget amid other pending outlays for a new jail, obligations for police and fire department pensions, completion grants for economic development projects and more. 

At the June 25 meeting, Lahnen pointed out that even without the $94 million, the benefits package was worth nearly $175 million. That includes the city’s $56 million plus nearly $119 million from the Jaguars, who said they would stick to their $100 million and match any city funding above $100 million on a $1 to $3 basis. 

Lahnen said afterward that he was not suggesting he would support capping the city’s funding at $56 million. 

“My point was kind of like, let’s celebrate what we did tonight,” he said, adding that he was interested in discussing the remaining funding after the upcoming Council break. 

Support for the benefits package

In a poll by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab, 56% of respondents said they supported the stadium agreement with the community benefits plan attached. 

In response to a question about the stadium-only portion of the plan, which calls for the city to invest $775 million in public funds, 41% were in support. 

Asked whether they would support the community benefits agreement itself, 81% responded yes.

The JAX Chamber and Civic Council publicly endorsed the full package, including the community benefits agreement, as have former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver and former mayors John Peyton and John Delaney.

Rory Diamond

Diamond criticized Deegan for putting up $150 million for a $50 million bump from the team. 

Diamond called the city’s portion “totally unnecessary spending” and has described the UNF poll as “total garbage because it didn’t ask the honest questions.” 

“If you asked Jax tax payers if they wanted $100 million from Jags for free or $150 million but it costs $150 million of their money, they are taking the free money every time,” he posted on X.

During a June 17 public hearing, a contingent of several dozen Eastside residents urged Council members to approve the benefits funding. They described the neighborhood as having suffered from generations of neglectful or inequitable treatment by city decision-makers and harmful policies such as redlining, leaving many of its residents struggling with low incomes and low property values. 

Funding culled

On June 20, Council members voted 11-2 to cull out the $94 million in the community benefits agreement to consider as standalone legislation after Council’s annual summer break, which occurs over the first two weeks of July. 

Nick Howland

Howland said that unlike the money for parks, which was broken down into detailed amounts for each of the four projects, the remaining funding for benefits was in “buckets” as opposed to expenditures on specific programs and services. He said it would be fiscally responsible for Council to separate that funding out and seek details on it.

“We shouldn’t just approve buckets,” he said.

Salem said the carved-out funding needed to be weighed against the city’s pending funding commitments and revenue projections for the 2025-26 and 2026-27 fiscal years, when the spending would occur. 

“These are major dollars,” he said. “We don’t know where it’s going to come from. We don’t know if we have those dollars.”

With the benefits funding removed, the agreement took a swift course to approval. Salem set a schedule to pass the legislation in two weeks, including workshops and committee meetings in which Council members dissected the nine separate agreements that make up the broad stadium deal. Under the normal Council schedule, it takes six weeks from introducing legislation to a final vote. 

Criticism for separation

At the June 25 Council meeting, 23 of the 44 individuals who spoke during the public comments criticized Council members for separating the benefits funding.

Samuel Hunter said the community meetings amounted to “performative” sessions that were held “to manipulate a cautious community into co-signing this deal under the false pretenses that a $300 million CBA would be in place.”

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan spoke at City Hall on June 25 after the "Stadium of the Future" vote.
Photo by Ric Anderson

“But on June 20th, the City Council amended the deal so that this would no longer be the case and they could successfully marginalize this city’s most neglected neighborhoods.”

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown asked Council to make a written commitment to take up the benefits in July.

“I support the stadium. Everybody supports the stadium. But it’s not the stadium, it’s the rest of the community,” she said. “I’m here because of the number of calls I’ve gotten. People are concerned that you are breaking up the opportunity for the community to be included. Let’s see it in writing what you are planning on doing (in July). I understand and I want to see in writing the proposal, because I know being a legislator for 35 years that what you put in writing is what counts.”

Michael Sampson II said communities like the Eastside and Northside were “the first to be told, ‘We can worry about that later’” in funding considerations for neighborhoods.

“We implore this Council to amend the stadium deal to reinstate this much-needed funding and not place our communities on the back burner,” he said. 


In breaking out the $94 million in benefits funding, a move that Council Vice President White offered as an amendment to Ordinance 2024-0904, White said the goal was to address conflicts of interest that would prevent several Council members from voting on the full ordinance.

District 12 City Council member Randy White

Removing the benefits funding and retaining the stadium and parks portions of it was designed to allow members with potential conflicts of interest to vote

It seemingly did not work as designed.

Carrico abstained related to his position as an administrator for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida, which offers development support for young people with programming that includes workforce preparation.

Freeman said his employer, Miller Electric Co., may compete for bids on the project, posing a conflict for him.

Pittman had abstained earlier, citing her position as the CEO and president of the Clara White Mission, which provides homelessness services.

Gaffney had previously declared a conflict related to his position at the Community Rehabilitation Center, but he said during the June 25 meeting he had received legal advice clearing him to vote. 

“It feels like I got a little cheated. It feels like our city got cheated,” Peluso said. “The same people who couldn’t vote before can’t vote? I mean, come on.”

This story has been updated



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