Sketch of proposed improvements at EverBank Field.
Jaguars lobbyist Paul Harden addresses the Jacksonville City Council
Jacksonville, Fla. -- The Jacksonville City Council chewed on matter for more than 2 hours Tuesday, but in the end, voted overwhelmingly to spend $43 million on upgrades to EverBank Field.
Today's vote means the city will spend convention tax dollars and issue bonds to help pay for stadium improvements, including high tech scoreboards and a North End Zone attraction with water features. Jags owner Shad Khan will chip in another $20 million, bringing the total outlay for the upgrades to $63 million.
Some council members raised concerns about the plan, particularly the impact that the move would have on the city's facilities' maintenance fund. But Council member Stephen Joost was the sole no vote, chiefly because he questioned the team's long term commitment to downtown Jacksonville.
"Why wouldn't they move?" Joost wondered, noting that other professional teams have relocated to adjacent suburbs. "I would if I was them."
Joost also questioned what message the vote sent to taxpayers.
"How do we explain to the fire and police who we're cutting their benefits -- at least trying to...That we don't have enough money for those folks, when we can find $43 million for the stadium?"
Only a handful of speakers addressed the council, including resident Connie Benham.
"They're claiming we're on the verge of bankruptcy, and we turn around and go for another 30 year debt. To me, the Jaguars are bullies."
But Jaguars President Mark Lamping said the vote represented a necessary commitment to the team. "I think all of us want a very successful stable NFL franchise. And to that extent the city council vote today reflected that."
The council is expected to take a final vote at the full council meeting tonight, but with 16 council members voting yes today, that vote is seen as a mere formality.
First Coast News