Poll: Jaguars stadium renovation support boosted by community benefits agreement

The University of North Florida poll also sees support for a new jail and for Mayor Donna Deegan.

Fireworks explode over this aerial rendering of the Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium of the Future.
Fireworks explode over this aerial rendering of the Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium of the Future.
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The community benefits agreement in the plan to renovate EverBank Stadium into the Jacksonville Jaguars “Stadium of the Future” makes the difference between voters supporting the plan or rejecting it, according to a University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab poll released May 28.

Mayor Donna Deegan’s administration and the Jaguars announced a $1.4 billion stadium deal May 14 that includes $775 million in public spending and a $300 million community benefits agreement split between the city and team. The plan must be approved by Jacksonville City Council.

The community benefits agreement would fund workforce development and address affordable housing and homelessness. It also includes $75 million for the development of parks, including Riverfront Plaza and Shipyards West Park.

The poll asked voters the following about the stadium agreement:

“As you may know, the City of Jacksonville has come to an agreement with the Jaguars to renovate the city owned EverBank Stadium. Do you support or oppose the City of Jacksonville assuming 55% of the costs and spending $775 million of public funds for stadium renovations?”

The poll found a combined 58% oppose the plan while 41% support it.

The poll then asked:

“In addition to stadium construction costs, the City of Jacksonville and the Jaguars have entered into a Community Benefits Agreement to invest $150 million each for workforce and community development, affordable housing, homelessness and parks, both near the stadium and countywide. Do you support or oppose this Community Benefits Agreement?”

To that question, 81% supported the community benefits agreement,  with 17% opposed and 2% didn’t know or refused to answer. 

The poll also asked:

“Overall, this agreement between the City of Jacksonville and the Jaguars will result in the City spending $925 million on stadium renovations and community investment, do you support or oppose this agreement?”

With the community benefits plan included, 56% support the plan while 43% oppose it.

Michael Binder

“Duval County voters just don’t want to foot the bill for stadium renovations, but that Community Benefits Agreement seems to have sweetened the pot enough for folks to go along with the entire deal,” said Michael Binder, UNF Public Opinion Research Lab faculty director, in a news release.

The poll asked if the stadium renovation should be put to voters in a referendum, with 72% in support, 27% opposed and 1% didn’t know. 

Deegan has said she opposes a referendum on the stadium deal.

“Even though City Hall has made it abundantly clear that Jacksonville voters will not get the opportunity to weigh in with a referendum, over 70% of the electorate wants the chance to vote on this agreement,” Binder said.

Finally, if choosing between keeping the Jaguars and funding other projects, voters were ready to spend elsewhere.

“If you could choose between spending $775 million on stadium renovations to keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville or invest that money in other city priorities (such as a new county jail, infrastructure improvements, paying down the pension debt, etc.), which would you choose?”

The poll found 39% support the stadium renovations and 58% say it should be used for other priorities, with 3% saying they didn’t know.

“This is obviously a purely hypothetical question, since we don’t get to pick and choose the way public funds are allocated, but when it really comes down to it, if they had their way, most people would rather spend their tax money on something else besides the stadium,” Binder said.

Most of those polled said they were Jaguars fans:

• “Are you a Jaguars fan?” 62% yes, 37% no and 1% didn’t know or refused to respond.

• “How important is it for the city of Jacksonville to have an NFL franchise?” 73% said it was moderately to very important, with 12% saying it wasn’t important at all.

Downtown development

Respondents also were asked about their feelings toward the investment of tax dollars in Downtown development:

• 39% said investing in Downtown is crucial to Jacksonville’s growth and development.

• 28% said they have some reservations, despite seeing the potential benefits.

• 19% expressed hesitancy, saying there are better uses for tax dollars.

• 14% said they are firmly against spending public funds Downtown.

Visiting Downtown

“In the past year, about how often did you visit downtown Jacksonville for leisure or entertainment?”

• 46% said they visit a few times per year and 24% never visit. 19% visit about once a month; 7% weekly and 3% daily.

• Over the past year, 38% said they never attended a game, event or concert at EverBank Stadium or Daily’s Place; 33% said they attended one to three events; 25% attended more than four.

“In a city where 70% of its residents either never go downtown or do so only a few times per year for leisure, I am stunned that so many people are committed to downtown investment,” Binder said.

The Duval County Jail in Downtown Jacksonville.

New jail

The poll asked about building a new Duval County jail to replace the one Downtown.

“It’s old, it’s rundown, it’s a big issue and it should be moved,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said of the existing jail.

The poll asked:

“As you may know, a proposal has been made to build a new Duval County jail facility away from its current location downtown, which will include better access to medical and mental health services. Would you support or oppose building a new Duval County jail facility, spending an estimated $1 billion of public funds?”

The poll found a total of 73% strongly or somewhat support the plan, with 24% opposed.

“If I was surprised at the amount of support for a new jail last fall when it was only estimated to cost $380 million (and I was), I’m dumbfounded now that support is even higher with a price tag at $1 billion,” Binder said.

“I do suspect that large capital expenditures like this are going to need more aggressive funding streams going forward, and the potential for tax increases could pull down some of this support in the future.”

Spending priorities

The poll asked “What is your top priority for the investment of tax dollars in the City of Jacksonville?

• Infrastructure, 23%

• Education, 19%

• Public safety/police, 13%

• Affordable housing/homelessness, 9%

• Community and social services, 4%

• Downtown revitalization, 4%

• Parks, beautification, recreation, 3%

• Stadium/Jaguars, 3%

• Environment/resiliency, 1%

• Public health/healthcare, 1%

• Other, 10%

• Didn’t know, refused to answer, 10%

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan speaks as the deal to remake EverBank Stadium for the Jacksonville Jaguars was announced to the City Council on May 14.

Public officials

The poll also asked about job approvals for local elected officials and Jaguars owner Shad Khan. 

Sheriff T.K. Waters: 64% approval, 26% disapproval.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson: 61% approval, 20% disapproval.

Shad Khan: 60% approval, 32% disapproval.

The City Council: 48% approval, 42% disapproval.

Mayor Donna Deegan: 63% approval, 28% disapproval.

“A little less than a year in office and Mayor Deegan’s approval is 63%,” Binder said. “Jax mayors have traditionally had positive approval ratings, but these are great numbers for the rookie mayor who has faced a number of early tests.”

The poll of 667 registered Duval County voters was conducted May 21-27 via phone and web surveys distributed via text message. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.7%



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