Jacksonville, FL — The Jacksonville Jaguars hope to be able to announce plans for redeveloping Lot J by the end of the year.
The team’s leadership has been working with the City for months on the project, according to Jags owner Mark Lamping, but it is even more important now, as they pursue revenue streams to help secure the team’s long-term stability in the city.
WOKV first told you Wednesday that Jaguars owner Shad Khan withdrew his plan to buy London's Wembley Stadium, because he didn't see the widespread support he would want for that type of venture. Lamping says the specific purpose of that deal was to bring more local revenue to the Jags, similar to other projects they have taken on, including the annual London game, Daily's Place, and more.
“All of those projects are designed to support the Jaguars to make sure that we’re a sustainable franchise here in Jacksonville. So, the fact that it’s [Wembley purchase] not going to happen, that puts pressure on us to find other ways to generate the revenue that would have come from there, and I’m confident that we’ll do that,” Lamping says.
One of those projects is Lot J, or the redevelopment of an existing parking lot at TIAA Bank Field in to a mixed-use entertainment district, which could also include residential, office, or hotel space. Lamping says the team would self-operate the entertainment district, and act as landlord for other components- all providing various revenue opportunities. The Jags announced their intention to seek the redevelopment months ago, and they have since been working with the City on the proposal. Lamping says Khan is ready with financial support, but it will take a partnership with the City, and he believes they have been moving in the right direction.
“We will certainly be disappointed with ourselves if we’re not making significant progress by the end of the year,” he says.
Another project that is undergoing negotiations is redevelopment of the Northbank Riverfront, including the Shipyards and Met Park. Khan was selected as the master developer for that site, but there was a lengthy extension approved for how long those negotiations could take. Lamping says one of their sticking points continues to be the removal of the elevated Hart Bridge lanes in Downtown, which is something the Jacksonville City Council recently approved $12.5 million for. The Florida Department of Transportation has also committed $12.5 million for the project, and the City has not yet heard whether they won a federal grant for the final third of the funding.
GALLERY: Shad Khan's plan for the Shipyards
Overall, the Jags estimate their proposed redevelopment in and around the Sports Complex to be worth some $2.5 billion.
Lamping says they are also looking at big events, like the recent "Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour" featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd, which took place at TIAA Bank Field on Labor Day weekend. They continue to program the Daily's Place amphitheater with shows that bring in revenue for the team as well.
“There is no silver bullet. If there was one thing that we could do to solidify the Jaguars here in Jacksonville, we would do it, but it doesn’t exist,” Lamping says.
But he says the team will nonetheless continue to look for more revenue opportunities to achieve that stability.
“We think it’s our responsibility to solve it. It’s not the community’s responsibility, it’s not the fans’ responsibility, it’s our responsibility to do it. And, if we didn’t think we could do it, Shad [Khan] wouldn’t be spending the hundreds of millions of dollars that he’s prepared to continue to invest,” Lamping says.
There is a lot of development that has recently moved forward in that immediate area, including the proposed redevelopment of Berkman Plaza II in to a hotel, parking, and entertainment space. Khan has also put forward a plan to kickoff the Shipyards development with a new Convention Center, although the City's Downtown Investment Authority Board has authorized negotiations on a different proposal, which would be on the old Courthouse/City Hall Annex site.
“We are focused on doing everything that we need to do, to produce a sustainable, stable franchise here in Jacksonville,” Lamping says.
He believes that will have to mean new local revenue, because football revenue alone will not bring in enough. They have nonetheless pursued avenues within the football frame as well, including adding more premium seating in the stadium, and some that also involves fan attractions, like the pools.
While they’re disappointed the Wembley deal fell through- because it was not only an independent revenue stream, but could have helped secure the team’s continued annual presence on London- Lamping says the timing wasn’t right.
“We got drawn in to the middle of, really, an internal dispute amongst the Football Association. We knew that if this project was going to be successful, that it was going to be a long-term partnership with the FA. And if you’re ever getting in to a partnership that you know if going to take a lot of give-and-take, and is going to take long-term, you better make sure that you get off on a really strong foot. And it just seemed like the seller of the stadium didn’t have all their ducks in a row,” Lamping says.
He’s nonetheless confident about the partnerships the Jags have built in London and with the NFL in the UK, and he says they will do everything they can to maintain that annual game, as a key contributor in supporting Jacksonville operations.
And for those who continue to believe that the Jags are trying to move to London outright, Lamping says Khan continues to be frustrated by that talk, and asks fans to keep looking at their actions, not speculation.
“You don’t do the type of stuff that he’s [Khan’s] doing, you don’t invest the type of money that he’s investing, if you’re planning to leave,” Lamping says.
He says Khan is prepared to invest in the next opportunity that will continue to support the team in Jacksonville, and they will continue pursuing partnerships with the City and others to achieve what’s best for the community overall.