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Updated: 9:28 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 | Posted: 2:06 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

Plan to fund EverBank improvements doesn't touch your tax dollars

New EverBank South End Zone video board
Stephanie Brown
New EverBank South End Zone video board


New EverBank South End Zone video board photo
Stephanie Brown
New EverBank South End Zone video board

By Stephanie Brown and Rich Jones

Jacksonville, FL —

If the Jacksonville City Council agrees, construction of the $63 million stadium upgrades at EverBank Field will begin in January 2014. 

For the first time, we’ve gotten a better look at how the city plans to foot its $43 million portion of the bill.  Mayor Alvin Brown they will tap existing revenue sources already being directed to the stadium. 

Under Florida law, Duval County is allowed to levy a 2% charge on hotel guests to remodel, repair, improve, or maintain stadiums or other sports facilities.  In 2009 the Jacksonville City Council created a Sports Complex Capital Maintenance Fund to hold the revenue generate from that charge.  The Mayor's chief of staff Chris Hand estimates the hotel tax generated $4.6 million in the last fiscal year.  

Hand says the city will essentially borrow the $43 million now and pay it back through the financing of bonds.  He says the city could ultimately have up to 30 years to pay some of those bonds back. 

"In these challenging fiscal times, I was determined to find a funding source that would not increase the burden on Jacksonville taxpayers or impact our general fund budget," Brown says, adding "with this agreement, we have achieved both goals.  The city has long collected revenue from guests at Jacksonville hotels.  It was already going to stadium upgrades.  Now it will be invested in one of the most significant enhancements in the history of EverBank Field." 

Asked when he would like to see city council vote on the proposal, Mayor Brown said he's hopeful action will come soon, as construction is expected to begin in January 2014.

So far, it seems like there is a lot of support for the plan.

“The utilization of those screens will go way beyond football games,” says City Council President Bill Gulliford.

Gulliford says his main concern right now is ensuring there will still be enough money set aside for general stadium maintenance and repairs. Other than that, he thinks the hotel tax is a stable revenue stream that should grow as we get more attractions to the stadium and more visitors for them.

We asked Councilman Matt Schellenberg is he had any concern about the city taking out this potentially long-term loan.

“The reason why you do bonds is so you have a long-term was in which to pay it back,” he says.

While he says he’s still waiting for the specific legislation to be put up before he can feel completely comfortable with the plan, Schellenberg believes it sounds like a good deal.

The EverBank enhancements include new video scoreboards in each end zone, the dimensions of which will make them the largest of their kind in the world.  A new scoreboard control room would be equipped with state-of-the-art software.  And a new platform area in the north end zone would feature unique food and beverage offerings, interactive activities and North Florida-themed imagery and pools.  

The funding plan is being formally introduced to City Council on Tuesday.   

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