Jacksonville, FL - They’re rolling out plans “A”, “B”, and “C” to make sure it happens in 2014.
Jacksonville has called off any plans for a Navy-Marine Corps Classic this year
"I think it's partly because they realized they were right in the same predicament that they were last year: Behind the 8-ball. Most of the basketball schedules have been committed to. I think it's better to start fresh,” says Councilman Matt Schellenberg, who had chaired a special committee looking in to the financial loss of the 2012 game.
Last year's game on the USS Bataan featured the Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas. It was postponed after half-time because condensation on the court created a safety hazard for the players.
The early cancellation was one of the reasons the city lost more than $700,000 on the game. It led to lower than estimated concession sales. The city also failed to secure a title sponsor, largely due to the quick timeline for planning the game.
The biggest issue, however, was the venue. The city was originally expecting a nuclear carrier, but wound up with a ship with less than half the expected seating.
“Even if a ship or a carrier wouldn’t happen, we would still be able to do a unique event for the city,” says Jacksonville’s Sports and Entertainment Director Alan Verlander.
Verlander says they are already looking at other venues that can be used if a carrier doesn’t work out. A secondary reason for that search is actually one of the driving forces behind this year’s cancellation- not knowing whether the Navy will be able to help at all.
“They made a big commitment and financial commitment to our game last year in the way of bringing ships down here and all that, and couldn’t do that this year,” he says.
He tells me budget cuts make the contribution uncertain, even when planning for 2014, so the city is looking at other venues, like NAS Jax- the new hanger would seat more than 8,000- or the Veterans Memorial Arena to host the Week of Valor highlight.
Verlander tells me in addition to the Navy cuts, there were two big factors for calling off the game this year, both of which are sporting events you may very well attend instead.
He says the city is committed to revitalizing the Florida/Georgia game, and that includes pushing it back one week. The schedule would have had FL/GA and the NMCC on back-to-back weekends this year, which he says would be a challenge. That time frame will also see a preseason NBA game. Verlander says the city is committed to proving its dedication to the NBA, so that game will require a lot of attention.
Schellenberg plans to introduce legislation regarding oversight of the Sport and Entertainment fund, which was nearly depleted by last year’s loss. He says new oversight and an extended timeline to plan should fix a lot of problems.
“We know exactly what we’ve committed to and what the city’s obligations are,” he says.
Overall, the financial loss of last year’s game is a small factor on Verlander’s mind. He says there are definite lessons to learn, but the event can and will be profitable in the future.