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Tax break for Jacksonville Jaguars clears hurdle at state Capitol

4:08 PM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A bill that would pave the way for renovations at EverBank Field for the Jacksonville Jaguars clears it first test at the state Capitol.

On Monday, a Senate committee passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley that would give the Jaguars a $2 million a year tax break for the next 30 years.

While the bill passed the committee, it will face tough questions going forward because the Jaguars already get a $2 million a year tax break from the state of Florida.

That deal dates back to 1994 and the Jags will continue receiving the cash through 2024.

Getting two tax breaks worth $4 million a year will take some selling in the Legislature, but Bradley said the money is needed to make EverBank Field a world-class facility for the future.

"It was built in 1995 and it's starting to show its age and it's time to bring it up to world-class standards and this bill will help do that."

Bradley said the previous tax rebate was for construction of the stadium.

"That tax rebate goes to pay debt service on the building of the stadium and now we have moved ahead in time. It's been almost 17 years since the stadium opened and since that time, over 20 NFL teams have either gotten new stadiums or had significant renovations to their stadiums and so in order for us to keep a world-class facility, for it to be one of the best around, and it will be if this bill passes and everything moves forward, we need a new investment in it."

Bradley compares the maintenance of a stadium to a house.

"I look at it like with my house. I need to replace the roof every couple of decades. I need to make sure that it remains up to date and this is our responsibility as taxpayers."

Bradley describes the tax rebate as a user fee because state sales taxes generated at the stadium are returned to the facility.

"If you are an individual that enjoys the use of EverBank Field and think it is important for us to keep it at a high level, at a world-class level, then you can help contribute to that by going to the stadium, paying for tickets, paying for Cokes, paying for hot dogs, and that is the money that gets used to renovate the stadium. If you don't think it's a good idea to do this, then don't go to EverBank Field and your tax dollars won't be used to renovate it."

Under the legislation, the city of Jacksonville and the team's owner would also contribute to the cost of renovations.

The Jaguars are currently one of eight professional sports franchises in Florida that receive the state's $2 million a year tax break over 30 years.

The bill still faces votes in two more committees before it can head to the full Senate.

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