New Florida/Georgia contract filed just months before 2017 game

Jacksonville, FL — With just about six months to go before the annual Florida/Georgia football game in Jacksonville- and a year after the deal was expected- the City now has a formal contract on the table.

“This historic event is staying in Jacksonville. What it means for the City- it’s part of the fabric of who we are,” says Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

WOKV first told you last March that the City, University of Florida Athletic Association, and University of Georgia Athletic Association had agreed to terms for a five year contract. The intent was to have that contract executed by April 2016- ahead of the 2016 game, which was the final one under the prior contract.

That timeline was not met, and internal communications obtained by WOKV show the contract has spent months bouncing between Jacksonville's Office of the General Counsel and attorneys for the universities. New documents filed with the City Council show a five-year deal has now been fully agreed to between the Mayor's Office and both universities, and is only pending City Council approval.

WOKV has obtained the full agreement, which  covers five games- with the first being 2017 and the final being 2021. The Office of Sports and Entertainment would have oversight.

It substantially reflects the terms agreed to in 2016, which give a total of $2.75 million in incentives- a $125,000 “signing bonus” and $250,000 annual guaranteed payment for each team- which didn’t exist under the prior contract. This contract also includes each team getting an increase in their travel stipend by $10,000- with the cost going up to $60,000. The City additionally covers air travel for the University of Georgia up to $350,000 each year, although unlike the prior contract, there is no built-in annual raise in that cost.

“This is a $31.5 million economic impact, and there’s a tremendous return for taxpayers here,” Curry tells WOKV.

Curry says he used a scorecard to determine the cost and benefit of the financial commitment. He believes the bed tax and sales tax money, among other things, outweigh the cost to the City of offering these incentives and hosting the game.

Mirroring the prior contract, the universities receive full ticket revenue and do not pay to play at EverBank Field, under this new deal. The City covers the cost of game day operations, but retains the right to operate concessions, while the schools have merchandising.

A completely new provision of this contract is the use of the new amphitheater and flex field- collectively Daily's Place- which is being constructed next to the stadium. The City will have sole control over the programming in those venues, and will retain the revenue. WOKV asked Curry whether there are events already being planned for the weekend around 2017, and he said only that the City's Sports and Entertainment Office was in charge of that.

This contract also speaks about the City using “its best effort” to install two permanent signs at the stadium referencing the game- which is a provision of the Terms Sheet. The City would cover the cost.

The 2016 Terms Sheet specifically mentions that there would be a separate Memorandum of Understanding for a 90/10 sponsorship split between the schools and City, respectively. There is no clear mention of either of these provisions in the contract. Instead, the terms stand for now with the schools retaining the revenue.

Also reflective of the Terms Sheet, the three parties agree to begin negotiations on a contract extension ten days after the 2018 game and lasting through ten days after the 2019 game. The prior contract included only one “right of first negotiation”, but the new contract that’s been filed has a “second right of negotiation” as well, which would start four months after the 2019 game and conclude ten days after the 2020 game. If there is no extension agreement at the end of the second negotiation, the schools are no longer obligated to negotiate exclusively with the City. Curry declined to speak specifically to why the second option was added in, except to say that the prior Administration had not reached a deal with the schools before leaving office.

The proposed contract will be vetted and voted on by the Jacksonville City Council in the coming weeks. Despite the fact that there is no written agreement on file, Curry says there has been no impact on the 2017 game, and that planning and implementing the event is in full swing.

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