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Millions of dollars proposed for major park improvements in Jacksonville
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Millions of dollars proposed for major park improvements in Jacksonville

Millions of dollars proposed for major park improvements in Jacksonville
Photo Credit: via City of Jacksonville
Friendship Fountain renderings

Millions of dollars proposed for major park improvements in Jacksonville

Millions of dollars could soon be invested in to improvements at Jacksonville parks.

As part of the City of Jacksonville’s annual budget process, Mayor Lenny Curry has put forward his proposed Capital Improvement Program, which lists the infrastructure investments he wants the City to make. WOKV has found nearly a dozen projects across Jacksonville which focus on the infrastructure at local parks, with a proposed investment of close to $13 million, mostly in borrowed funds. This is above and beyond standard park maintenance that’s budgeted for every year.

FULL COVERAGE: Jacksonville Mayor’s nearly $1.4 billion budget proposal

On the Southside, a $2.225 million expansion is planned for the Fort Family Regional Park off Baymeadows, near I-295. This project would add four baseball fields, a parking lot, and a concession stand to the site, with construction starting this fall and continuing through next fall. The City says the park would be able to remain open during this work, which is aimed at creating a more substantial sports complex for the densely populated area. The park currently has a tennis complex, soccer fields, a playground, pavilions, and restrooms. The majority of this project would be funded through borrowing.

via City of Jacksonville
Fort Family Regional Park rendering
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Fort Family Regional Park rendering

Photo Credit: via City of Jacksonville
Fort Family Regional Park rendering

$600,000 in available funding is earmarked for lighting upgrades for the baseball complex at Baker Skinner Park, off Powers Avenue in the San Jose area of the Southside. The City of Jacksonville says lighting at four of the six fields will be addressed, with the two smaller t-ball fields excluded since they are not as affected because of earlier games. Replacing the lighting means demolishing the old system and installing new LED sports field lighting, poles, and controllers, but the City says the park will remain open during the work. Construction will begin this fall and wrap by Spring 2020, if the proposal is approved. 

One of the biggest investments is near the Main Street Bridge on the Southbank of Downtown, in the St. Johns River Park and Friendship Fountain, which is on the park site. For the park itself, $950,000 was previously committed, and an additional $1.6 million is proposed for the upcoming fiscal year, with most of the funding coming through borrowing. This would fund improvements to walkways, picnic areas, landscaping, adaptive signage, a concession area, and restroom facilities. There is also a concept for a Ribault Landing-themed playground and a splashpark. 

The City says this park will have to be closed during the construction, which is slated to start late this year or early 2020, and wrap in the end of 2020. The City says they’re working to identify any events and activities that would be affected by this closure, to provide alternate locations.

In the park, Friendship Fountain itself is poised for a huge overhaul. The City has previously invested $1.3 million, and is proposing another $4.2 million now- mostly through borrowing- for some significant repairs. The project includes repairs to the concrete structure, speakers, lighting, pumps, wiring, and electronic and software equipment. Renderings from the City show two different perspectives, but the same concept, of what that work could look like.

via City of Jacksonville
Friendship Fountain renderings
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Friendship Fountain renderings

Photo Credit: via City of Jacksonville
Friendship Fountain renderings

via City of Jacksonville
Friendship Fountain renderings
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Friendship Fountain renderings

Photo Credit: via City of Jacksonville
Friendship Fountain renderings

For William F. Sheffield Regional Park, off New Berlin Road on the Northside, this is poised to be the first year of a multi-year investment. The CIP proposes $1 million for the upcoming fiscal year and $3 million the following year, largely funded through borrowing. The money this year is for new multi-use fields, which would be able to accommodate soccer, football, and other sports, according to the City. This project would also involve an increase in the parking capacity, and while the exact number of spots is not clear, the City says capacity should double around the football fields. Construction here would begin this fall and conclude next fall, with no need to close the park.

Another multi-year investment is proposed for a Winton Drive Recreation Facility, across from Ribault High School in Northwest Jacksonville. $500,000 was previously committed to this project, and now the CIP proposes $2.05 million in borrowing each of the next two years to round out the investment. A Boys & Girls Club facility is being built adjacent to this property, so this rec facility would be aimed at supporting that. The facility would consist of a range of fields and parking, as conceptualized in this rendering.

via City of Jacksonville
Winton Drive Recreational Facility
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Winton Drive Recreational Facility

Photo Credit: via City of Jacksonville
Winton Drive Recreational Facility

The 103rd Street Sports Complex on the Westside could see $707,000 in renovations, funded through available cash. The proposal is to renovate the grandstand building where scoring is done and restrooms are housed, as well as the bleachers, lighting, and sidewalks. This project is expected to span from this fall through next summer, with the park staying open through that time. This park centers on a half-mile lighted Go-Kart track.

Hanna Park in the Mayport area stands to see $14,093 in proposed improvements including fencing replacement, playground repairs, safety lighting, trail repairs, drainage improvements, and minor renovations to amenities. In addition to that, $240,000 is proposed to repair one of the beach access boardwalks, which the City says has deteriorated because of the harsh environment. The CIP notes Hanna Park has not seen any major capital improvements in recent years, so work like this will help it continue to generate revenue and stay competitive. All of this funding would come from available cash on hand.

Another relatively small investment is for Carvill Park in the Norwood area of Northwest Jacksonville. Most of the proposed $150,000, which comes from available funding, would be used for the pool and pump house, although some of the money is also earmarked for security lighting around the park.

These proposals are all included in the CIP, which is still pending vetting and approval by the Jacksonville City Council, as part of the annual budget process. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the next fiscal year October 1st.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • Two weeks after WOKV reported that Jacksonville city leaders were looking to up the sakes for the fan experience around the annual Florida-Georgia game, Mayor Lenny Curry and other dignitaries on Friday announced the inaugural Bold City Bash.  The big weekend will begin with an exhibition baseball game between the Gators and Bulldogs at the Baseball Grounds on Friday, November 1st.  Following the exhibition game, country music star Brett Young and other special guests will perform, followed by fireworks. Tickets for both the game and concert/fireworks will cost $15 and go on sale September 3rd.  “It’s always good to have a little anticipation and mystery, so there will be two more acts announced in the weeks ahead”, said Mayor Curry.  There will also be events on the Flex Field at TIAA Bank Field before the football game on Saturday, November 2nd.  “Duval’s Bold City Bash is a signature addition to the Florida-Georgia game and will encompass an entire week of festivities”, said Bill McConnell, General Manager of SMG.  “It will energize Downtown and it will make the Sports Complex the place to be to celebrate the Florida-Georgia tradition before gameday”.  WOKV reported on August 8th that the Mayor’s budget request proposed spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more than prior years, to create a destination in the heart of the Sports Complex. “All the way from RV City, through the [Daily’s Place] Flex Field, in to the parking lots next to the stadium, out to APR [A. Philip Randolph Blvd.], and incorporating the Baseball Grounds and some of the different things on APR, including private businesses that are in the food and entertainment business, to try to connect them all together in a way that offers that whole area of the Sports and Entertainment District as a location for multiple events,” said Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes. Hughes said the intention is to activate this area for several days leading up to the game for both family-friendly activities and nightlife, with everything from live music to street vendors. WOKV started asking about the enhanced fan experience, after seeing a boost in a special events subfund in Mayor Curry’s proposed $1.4 billion budget. While the City plans to do the same annual events it hosts every year, like the Hall of Fame luncheon, they’re proposing budgeting several hundred thousand dollars more than last year in order to execute this vision. The budget proposal includes an addition over last year of more than $440,000 for miscellaneous Florida/Georgia expenses relating to event services and $75,000 in equipment rentals corresponding with the increase in services, among other areas. The exact price tag for the Bold City Bash was not yet available.  Fans will be encouraged to ‘activate’ during The Block Party along Adams Street and A. Philip Randolph Blvd. Live entertainment, food trucks, a beer garden and free giveaways will be part of the fanfare experience.  Per the game contract, all parties are currently in the first negotiation window, which goes up until a few days prior to this year’s game. The final game under this current contract is in 2021, but Brian Hughes says all parties are having productive talks, and he hopes to be able to work out a deal that extends the game in Jacksonville for many years to come. “We anticipate getting to the finish line,” he says. The last contract extension was for five years and gave the teams a combined $2.75 million in payments and incentives over the course of the contract, including annual guaranteed payments, travel expenses, and more. There are limited direct revenue opportunities for the City, like through the operation of concessions and Daily’s Place. The direct costs to the City, meanwhile, have continued to climb over the years, with this new enhanced fan experience being the latest element- since Hughes says it is intended that this be an annual event. In addition to the price of running the stadium operations, the cost of tickets for the game has increased, and the City is obligated under the contract to buy 1,000 each year. The City is reimbursing the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair $80,000 this year relating to costs they will incur because they agreed to delay the opening of the Fair by a week to avoid a conflict with the game. Additionally, the City is paying the Jags nearly $380,000 to acknowledge revenue the team is losing because of the impact of the temporary seating construction on their available tickets to sell for their game the weekend prior to FL/GA. The cost of constructing temporary bleachers at TIAA Bank Field to meet the contractual seating obligation for the game is a little more than $2.4 million this year, with the Jaguars reimbursing about $310,000 relating to the construction in the Club Levels. That number varies some year to year, and could see an increase soon, as the contract with the current vendor expires and negotiations are ongoing in relation to an extension. Hughes says the cost of the event is well worth it, considering the impact on the city. “Jacksonville gets a lot of benefit from it. The economic impacts are real, we fill hotel rooms, we have people going to dinner for multiple nights while they’re here, we have people going out to the beach, we have people enjoying our public spaces around Jacksonville, in addition to having game day,” he says. And it’s also about the tradition. “Both UGA and the University of Florida have deep alumni networks here. It’s become a great tradition for a neutral site game, it’s one of the most famous neutral site games and rivalries in college football, and has been for decades,” he says. Now is the time the City wants to build on that tradition, not only through the enhanced fan experience, but the possible permanent changes for the Sports Complex. The Administration is in the process of putting the finishing touches on an economic development agreement that will reflect around $233.3 million in City incentives for the $450 million development of Lot J at the stadium in to a mixed-use site with entertainment, office, hotel, and residential space. While that deal is still pending approval by the Downtown Investment Authority and the City Council, another project that is moving forward is the removal of the Hart Bridge ramps by the stadium. All of this will mean construction likely affecting the next couple of games after the 2019 one, but Hughes says it will be worth the hassle. “Ultimately, a couple of years on the other side of it, I think people will be amazed at how well both Jaguars games and other events in that area and the Florida/Georgia tradition will kind of fit together down there very well,” he says. The Mayor’s budget proposal- and the included funding for this enhanced fan experience complex- is still pending the vetting and approval of the Jacksonville City Council. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the Fiscal Year October 1st.
  • A man has died as a result of a stabbing on Jacksonville’s westside.  Jacksonville Police say they received a 911 call on Thursday night from a person who said that his friend had just been stabbed on Kingston Street, off Commonwealth.  He told police they were driving the victim to UF Health on the northside. A short while later another 911 call came in about a crash at 8th Street and Davis.  Three people were inside the car, one person had a stab wound to the chest.  He was rushed to the hospital where he later died.  Two people who were in the car told police the suspect was an unidentified black woman who fled the scene in a dark colored car.  JSO is asking anyone who may have information about the stabbing to contact them at (904) 630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS. 
  • The active search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker by the Coast Guard and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue has come to an end after the men went missing a week ago off the Space Coast during a boating trip. Randy Wyse, the President of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters says it has been a hard week. We were hoping for a better outcome. Wyse says the community and volunteers have been phenomenal with the search and fundraiser. More than $150,000 has been raised and Wyse says the money is growing every hour but now the expenses are starting to come in. We promised we would cover fuel for boats and planes. Volunteers are being asked to bring their reimbursement receipts to the Command Post. Once the money gets situated, the money left over will go to the family members of McCluney and Walker. Wyse tells WOKV they will not be involved or funding any private searches, but the families can do whatever they wish with the money. Click here, if you wish to donate. 
  • A 10-year-old boy who was reported missing after leaving school in Argyle Forest is now back with his grandmother following an AMBER Alert and hours-long search. Two people have since been arrested for interfering with custody of a child and giving false information to law enforcement.  The Clay County Sheriff’s Office says the boy was picked up by someone while walking home from school in Argyle Forest, and taken to Jacksonville. According to an arrest report, 23-year-old Ondreja Ciprian had tried to entice the boy to come live with her over the past couple of weeks, without the grandmother’s knowledge or consent.  DCF had previously removed the boy from his mother and father’s care, and in February of 2018 awarded custody to his grandmother.  During the search for the boy on Thursday, Clay detectives went to a home off Rampart Road on Jacksonville’s westside, where they made contact with Vachastity Christian.  Detectives found a shirt draped over a fence that was positiively identified by the grandmother as the same shirt the missing boy had been wearing at school.  The boy was found safe in a back bedroom of the home and was later released to his grandmother.  Ciprian and Christian, whose relationship is not clear from the arrest report, were charged with interference with child custody and providing false information to law enforcement during a missing child investigation.  The Clay Sheriff’s Office says it is thankful to the community, who shared the message thousands of times on social media, brought in tips, and offered to help in any way they could. 
  • The week is going to end mostly dry and hot. Afternoon temperatures will reach the low 90’s but ‘feels-like’ temps 100-105.  Action News Jax Meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh says the Atlantic sea breeze moves inland this afternoon, which may pop an isolated shower but most neighborhoods along I-95 are high and dry today. The best chance for a shower today will be west of Hwy 301. Afternoon storms are expected on Saturday, but most of the activity will be inland. Our threat for rain and storms increases Sunday through the first half of next week. In the tropics, Invest 98-L is between South Florida and Andros Island of the Bahamas. Slow development is possible with this system as it parallels the Atlantic coast through the weekend. This will elevate seas a bit off our coast during the weekend, then it moves away from the local area to start next week. It will also impact where and when the rain falls during the weekend.  

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