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WOKV INVESTIGATES: Long-delayed covered arena could be turning point for Jacksonville Equestrian Center
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WOKV INVESTIGATES: Long-delayed covered arena could be turning point for Jacksonville Equestrian Center

WOKV INVESTIGATES: Long-delayed covered arena could be turning point for Jacksonville Equestrian Center
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
The covered arena project will involve expanding the pictured ring, with the cover extending over it and connecting to the building shown, which is the edge of the existing indoor arena.

WOKV INVESTIGATES: Long-delayed covered arena could be turning point for Jacksonville Equestrian Center

The Jacksonville Equestrian Center sits at a critical time for determining how it’s funded in the future, but it’s also at a turning point for realizing the potential of what the property can be. 

“This is the crown jewel of the Westside. We’re very proud of it, and we hope people will come out and enjoy it,” says Northeast Florida Equestrian Society Board Chair Peggy Fuller. 

WOKV brought you an in depth look Monday at the cost challenges that have beset the venue in recent years. The nonprofit running it, Northeast Florida Equestrian Society, believes they are on the road to turning that around, once they get their new covered arena open and in use. 

It’s just one of several projects and programs designed to not only start cranking up the venue’s use, but better connect it with the community. 

Covered arena 

The Equestrian Center’s contract says the first priority of NFES is adding a covered outdoor arena. That offers many different opportunities when partnered with the main arena- from a large show running more efficiently with multiple spaces, to a large show expanding further because of the additional space, to the ability to run two compatible shows at once in the two separate covered spaces. Because the new covered ring will be open air on the sides, it will also let the Equestrian Center increase programming in the summer, since the main arena now does not have air conditioning. 

For NFES, this gives them a space to host smaller community events, while also positioning them to be more competitive for large, national competitions. 

“To make this facility something that’s a destination, and people are proud of. This is a draw to Jacksonville, that this is somewhere somebody wants to come,” says NFES past Board Chair Joanne Connell. 

IN DEPTH: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s $1.2 billion City budget proposal

In fiscal year 16-17, the City Council committed $1.3 million for a covered ring, and NFES has secured a donation to match that, as part of a naming rights agreement for the space. The contract amendment between the City and NFES initially outlined the project’s completion as October 1, 2018. 

To date, the construction has not actually started. 

During recent City budget hearings, Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department Director Daryl Joseph said part of the reason NFES didn’t meet revenue projections is because those were put together with the expectation the new covered arena would be up and running. The City blames the delay on a number of factors, including the weather, hurricane and project design. NFES says the delay was driven in large part from the City- they took months to review and approve the donor match agreement, and once that was done, NFES says City codes had changed, so they had to deal with design changes and code variances. 

The City confirms the funding for the project is still allocated, and it’s believed the projection for the total project cost will still hold, despite the delay. The project timeline has also received a one-year extension, following a City Council vote last week. 

The plan is to take two existing outdoor rings and combine them in to one new 270x270 sq ft ring, that has footing to match the interior arena. A 300x300 sq ft cover will hang over that ring and will connect to the existing arena, with a buffer space in between the two buildings serving as a livestock holding area. 

City of Jacksonville contract
This drawing of the covered arena was included in the contract documents between the City of Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida Equestrian Society.
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Jacksonville Equestrian Center covered arena

Photo Credit: City of Jacksonville contract
This drawing of the covered arena was included in the contract documents between the City of Jacksonville and the Northeast Florida Equestrian Society.
Stephanie Brown
This ring will be expanded and covered as part of a big capital project at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.
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Jacksonville Equestrian Center

Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
This ring will be expanded and covered as part of a big capital project at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.

Fuller says they already have events that have committed to expanding, once the covered arena is in place. They’re also hoping it will lead to a major show anchoring in Jacksonville, meaning they schedule the same weekend here every year. NFES is not yet booking events for the venue, because of the delays that have taken place with construction. They’re now hoping to be able to break ground soon, with completion of the project late Spring or early Summer. 

With how the shows are booked- several years in advance- Fuller says it could take that long to see the full benefit, but the patience will be worth the wait. 

Other improvements on site 

The long-range plan has even more improvements for the site, both in infrastructure and offerings. NFES believes the next phase should be the support around the new covered ring. 

With 423 stalls currently spread across four barns, NFES hopes to start selling out more, once the new venue creates more demand. If the demand increases enough, they could potentially build even more barns in the future, which feeds a primary revenue source for them- stall rentals. 

GALLERY:Jacksonville Equestrian Center

With expanding space for the horses, comes the need for their human counterparts to go somewhere. NFES hopes to add more RV rental sites in the future, to achieve that. 

The contract “Work Plan” between the City and NFES says the nonprofit will refurbish barns, stalls, camping and RV spots, trails, parking, and landscaping. The Plan also calls for new bathroom and shower facilities near barns three and four, improved pavilions, additional livestock pens, covered bleachers, and much more. The Equestrian Center Master Plan includes a lot of this, and NFES is already separately working on more ring space, which is being funded by private donations. 

Stephanie Brown
This Master Plan shows the vision for the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. The red letters and numbers indicate projects that have been completed.
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Jacksonville Equestrian Center

Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
This Master Plan shows the vision for the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. The red letters and numbers indicate projects that have been completed.

 There are also on-site revenue services that are growing. They would like to expand the therapeutic equipment they have for horses, which could then be rented by horse owners at events. NFES further tells WOKV they also may have a donor lined up for a farrier space on-site, whereas any farrier or vet who provides services for events currently has to do work in the stalls. 

Equine Therapy program 

Another hallmark of the Equestrian Center’s future is a planned “state of the art” equine therapy program. 

Fuller says they have a sponsor that allows them to start the program by partnering with an accredited therapy group, which brings horses to the Equestrian Center and performs the services. They hope to ultimately be able to build a separate structure on the property to house the program full time. 

“Our theory is start small and build slowly, and then we’ll be successful. If you dive in, I think, all at once, you sometimes overstep. We want to start small and build,” she says. 

The program provides both physical and mental therapy services, for everyone from veterans to people with autism. 

“It’s exciting now that this has been actually realized, assisted therapy has been realized as a true therapy. And we want to be involved in that,” Fuller says. 

Connell says they’re especially proud of being able to aid the military community through this service, because of the origin of the land, which used to be with Cecil Field. 

Diverse programming 

The Equestrian Center is only one of the facilities in that area. Taye Brown Regional Park includes the Equestrian Center, the Cecil Recreation Complex’s Aquatic Center, and the ballfields. There are also miles of trails- including ones you can take a horse on- and a golf course nearby. 

The contract between the City and NFES talks about partnering with those other venues to create “destination package deals”. NFES says they absolutely see the surrounding attractions as benefiting them, in creating more appeal in the immediate area. 

The “Work Plan” further speaks about not only expanding equine-related events, but other community and diverse activities. 

“A big boost at other equestrian centers is the development and ownership of ‘downtime’ nonrated shows that will fill low-demand calendar dates,” the contract says. 

NFES believes the therapy program can ultimately be something that helps program the Equestrian Center every day, because it will run on week days, when large shows and events typically aren’t taking place. They’ve also already grown substantially in attracting a range of events. From dog agility shows, to RV shows, FDOT Career Day, concerts, rodeos, and much more, NFES has focused on bringing in something for everyone. 

“Most of our events are free and open to the public. There’s no parking fee, there’s no entrance fee, and we want people to come, encourage people to come and see what we have our here,” Fuller says. 

Marketing 

The City also continues to explore how to help promote the venue. 

In recent action recommended by the Tourist Development Council and approved by the City Council, guidelines were created to establish criteria for awarding all tourism development grants, including those used for marketing and special events. Part of that included setting aside $20,000 specifically for promotion the Equestrian Center, separate from the $800,000 in Special Event Grants that cover other events and City venues. According to the City, this funding will be used specifically to lure events that draw participants from outside of the area, and for advertising events at the venue. 

The grant money was pulled from the overall special events fund because of the unique nature of the Equestrian Center and events being recruited. As such, the TDC and Visit Jax wanted it to be handled differently. Jacksonville Equestrian Center Executive Director Tim Jones says the core problem is that the standard grants are being measured by hotel night, but that’s not the metric that most accurately represents the economic impact they have, since many participants stay in RVs or scatter at hotels that accommodate dogs or other animals they travel with. Instead, he envisions something that gives more weight to stall nights, for these new grants. 

Stephanie Brown
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Jacksonville Equestrian Center barn

Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

“It’s a City facility that attracts tourists, and we [the TDC] thought there was an opportunity to help them bump the level of their game, if they could offer some grants to some of the people to bring in the kind of ‘National Championship of X’, as opposed to just having the regional competitions,” said City Councilwoman Lori Boyer, during the TDC’s recent budget hearing. 

The funding is coming from the City’s tourism development tax, as part of the TDC budget. 

Looking ahead 

NFES understands that not everyone is familiar with- or necessarily even in support of- the Equestrian Center, but they’re continuing to work to change that. Highlighting that this is a Better Jacksonville Plan project, Fuller says voters supported it ahead of its construction in 2004, and now there is a need to maintain it, and an opportunity to program it to its fullest. 

NFES is committed to continuing to educate the City Council and community at large on the events and opportunities the venue holds. With most of the events at the Equestrian Center being free and open to the public, they’re hoping everyone takes the time to visit- not just those passionate about horses and equestrian events. 

In the coming year, the City of Jacksonville will closely consider how to subsidize this venue in the future. NFES says they will closely partner in those discussions, and continue to prove why they believe this is a worthwhile investment. 

WOKV continues to track how Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council are spending your tax dollars, with the final vote on the City’s $1.2 billion budget proposal coming next week.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand, left at least 50 people dead and dozens more injured Friday. >> Read more trending news  White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with one count of murder in the slayings and a judge said Saturday that it was reasonable to assume more charges would follow. >> Photos: Mass casualties reported in New Zealand mosque shooting Update 10:50 a.m. EDT March 18: President Donald Trump said Monday that the media was “working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand.” “They will have to work very hard to prove that one,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “So Ridiculous!” The gunman in last week’s attacks left a document in which he called himself a white nationalist and referred to Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity.” In the past, Trump has drawn criticism for saying “both sides” were to blame for violence at a deadly white supremacist demonstration. >> Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in Charlottesville Update 11:50 p.m. EDT March 17: Leaders of New Zealand’s Muslim community are planning a national memorial burial for all the victims of Friday’s deadly shooting rampages at two mosques in Christchurch, according to media outlets. The New Zealand Herald is also reporting that despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s expectations that the bodies of all the victims would be released to family members by Monday, that  isn’t expected to happen now, instead authorities believe it might be Wednesday before all the victims have been released. While Islamic leaders have said they are planning for a mass burial, the families will ultimately decide how they’ll proceed, the Herald reported. Not to far from the scene of the Linwood Mosque shooting, burial preparations are underway at Memorial Park Cemetery where workers are digging graves for the shooting victims behind a large temporary fence. Update 10:15 p.m. EDT March 17: The owner of a Christchurch gun store confirmed Sunday that he sold four guns and ammunition to alleged mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant in a “police-verified” online purchase, according to the New Zealand Herald. But the owner of the retail chain Gun City, David Tipple, said his store did not sell Tarrant any semi-automatic weapons. Tipple said he and staff are 'dismayed and disgusted' by Friday's shootings, The Associated Press reported. Tipple said the store did not notice any red flags in Tarrant’s gun purchases.  “We detected nothing extraordinary about this (gun) license holder,” he said. Meantime, counter-terrorism police executed search warrants on two homes in New South Wales, Australia, believed to be connected to the alleged shooter. Authorities searched a house in Sandy Beach near Coffs Harbor that is believed to belong to Tarrant’s sister, according to Australia’s News 9. They also raided a home in Lawrence that is believe to be connected to Tarrant’s mother. Authorities said they’re searching for anything that might help New Zealand investigators. “The community can be assured that there is no information to suggest a current or impending threat related to this search warrants,”the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police said in a joint statement, News 9 reported. Update 12:30 p.m. EDT March 17: Pakistan will observe a day of mourning for the victims of the shootings, The AP reported.  Vatican News reported Pope Francis offered prayers for those killed in the attacks.  “In these days, in addition to the pain of wars and conflicts that do not cease to afflict humanity, there have been the victims of the horrible attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. I pray for the dead and injured and their families. I am close to our Muslim brothers and all that community. I renew my invitation for prayer and gestures of peace to combat hatred and violence.” Related: Photos: Mass casualties reported in New Zealand mosque shooting Update 7:41 a.m. EDT March 17: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that members of her Cabinet will work to change the nation’s gun laws in the wake of Friday’s deadly mosque attacks, The Associated Press is reporting. In a news conference, Ardern added that officials will release the victims’ bodies to their families starting Sunday evening and should finish by Wednesday, the AP reported. Pope Francis on Sunday also prayed “for our Muslim brothers who were killed,” the report said.  Meanwhile, an online campaign has raised more than $3 million U.S. for the victims and their families. Learn more here. Update 5 p.m. EDT March 16: The death toll in the New Zealand mosque attacks has risen to 50. Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed in a news conference that 50 people died in the shooting attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, RNZ reported.  He also said that 36 are in the hospital with two in critical condition. Update 6:30 p.m. EDT March 15: The man suspected in at least one of the shootings that killed at least 49 people at two mosques in New Zealand has appeared briefly in court. Two armed guards brought Brenton Tarrant into court Friday. He showed no expression as District Court Judge Paul Kellar read one charge of murder to him. The court appearance lasted only about a minute and he was led back out in handcuffs. He was ordered to return to court again April 5. After Tarrant left, the judge said that while “there is one charge of murder brought at the moment, it is reasonable to assume that there will be others.” The gunman posted a 74-page manifesto on social media in which he identified himself as Tarrant and said he was a 28-year-old Australian and white supremacist who was out to avenge attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims. Update 5 p.m. EDT March 15: New Zealand’s prime minister said the “primary perpetrator” in the mosque shootings was a licensed gun owner and legally acquired the five guns used in the shootings. Jacinda Ardern said the country’s national gun laws will change after at least 49 worshippers were shot dead in the two mosques in Christchurch. Update 3:25 p.m. EDT March 15: President Donald Trump said he spoke Friday with Ardern and offered “any assistance the U.S.A. can give.” “We stand by ready to help,” Trump wrote. “We love you New Zealand!” Update 11:30 a.m. EDT March 15: New York police said the department is ramping up patrols around the city Friday and keeping in contact with officials at area mosques in the wake of the deadly shootings in Christchurch. 'To the Muslim community here in New York: We stand with you always, and we will remain vigilant in keeping you safe -- and making sure you feel safe, too,' Police Commissioner James O'Neill said Friday in a statement. 'The people we serve, in every neighborhood, must always be free from fear and have the immutable right to worship and live in peace.' Update 10:20 a.m. EDT March 15: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, said Friday in a statement that their “hearts go out to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives in the devastating attack in Christchurch.” “No person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship,” the statement said. “This senseless attack is an affront to the people of Christchurch and New Zealand, and the broader Muslim community. It is a horrifying assault on a way of life that embodies decency, community, and friendship.” Update 9:35 a.m. EDT March 15: Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama shared condolences for the people of New Zealand in a message posted Friday to social media. “We grieve  with you and the Muslim community,” said the message shared by President Obama. “All of us must stand against hatred in all its forms.” Update 8:55 a.m. EDT March 15: Pope Francis was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence” in New Zealand, his cardinal secretary of state said Friday in a telegram. “He assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks,” Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said. “Mindful of the efforts of the security and emergency personnel in this difficult situation, His Holiness prays for the healing of the injured, the consolation of those who grieve the loss of their loved ones, and for all affected by this tragedy.” Officials in New Zealand said 49 people were killed in a pair of attacks on mosques in Christchurch. Health officials said 48 patients were being treated for injuries ranging from minor to critical after the shootings. Update 7:49 a.m. EDT March 15: In a tweet early Friday, President Donald Trump sent “warm sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand after “the horrible massacre.” “Forty-nine innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured,” Trump said. “The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the attack “a vicious act of hate.”  “We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government,” Sanders said. Queen Elizabeth II, who is head of the Commonwealth and New Zealand's monarch, said she was “deeply saddened” by the shootings, CNN reported. “I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch today,” the queen said. “Prince Philip and I send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. I also pay tribute to the emergency services and volunteers who are providing support to those who have been injured.” Update 5:01 a.m. EDT March 15: New Zealand police said a man in his late 20s has been charged with murder, TVNZ reported. The man was expected to appear in court Saturday morning, The Washington Post reported. Officials have not named the suspect. Police clarified that while four people were detained, only three were thought to have been involved in the shootings, the newspaper reported. Update 4:20 a.m. EDT March 15: New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed in a news conference that 49 people died in the shooting attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, TVNZ reported. The attack at the Masjid Al Noor mosque near Hagley Park in central Christchurch left 41 people dead, and seven people were killed at the Linwood Avenue mosque, TVNZ reported. Another person died at a hospital, Bush said. Update 3:14 a.m. EDT March 15: Forty-eight patients are being treated for gunshot wounds at Christchurch Hospital, CNN reported. David Meates, chief executive of the Canterbury District Health Board, said the patients’ conditions ranged from critical to minor. One of four people taken into custody after the mass shooting attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, said he was a 28-year-old Australian, according to The Associated Press. Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that the shooter was Australian-born. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference, “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack. From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned.” 'We were chosen (because) we represent diversity, kindness compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it and those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack,' Ardern said. 'We utterly condemn and reject you.' Update 2:37 a.m. EDT March 15: In a news conference Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that 40 people died in the mosque attacks. Arden said 30 people were killed at the Masjid Al Noor mosque near Hagley Park in central Christchurch, and that 10 people were killed at the Linwood Avenue mosque, TVNZ reported. Twenty more people have been seriously injured, TVNZ reported. Update 2:24 a.m. EDT March 15: In a news conference Friday, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel expressed shock and anger after the mass shooting at the mosques. “I never could believe anything like this could ever happen in Christchurch,” she said. “I never thought anything like this could happen in New Zealand.” Dalziel told TVNZ, 'We need to come together and care for each other, we need to make this unite us, not divide us.' Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the shootings “a vicious attack.” 'We grieve. We are shocked, appalled and outraged as we stand here and condemn the attack that occurred today by an extremist right wing violent terrorist,” Morrison said. Update 1:43 a.m. EDT March 15: St. John Ambulance has transferred multiple patients to Christchurch Hospital and other local medical facilities, TVNZ reported. The news agency reported that injuries of the patients ranged from minor to critical. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to address the country at 7 p.m. local time. Update 1:30 a.m. EDT March 15: New Zealand police tweeted Friday that while they cannot confirm the number of fatalities, “it is significant.” Police have asked all mosques throughout New Zealand to close, and advised people to stay away from them “until further notice.” Update 1:04 a.m. EDT March 15: Police confirmed Friday afternoon that the lockdown of schools in Christchurch has been lifted, TVNZ reported. Update 12:33 a.m. EDT March 15: At a news conference, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said four people were in custody. Three are men and one is a woman, “as I understand it,” Bush said. There were improvised explosive devices found in vehicles after the shootings, Bush said. Update 12:16 a.m. EDT March 15:  “This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference Friday afternoon. “Clearly what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” A cricket match between Bangladesh and the New Zealand national team was canceled. The Bangladesh team was arriving for prayers at a mosque when the shooting occurred, but all members of the squad were safe, a team coach told Reuters. Update 11:15 p.m. EDT March 14: New Zealand authorities have confirmed that there have been multiple fatalities and one person is in custody: “Police is responding to a very serious and tragic incident involving an active shooter in central Christchurch.  One person is in custody, however Police believe there may be other offenders. This is an evolving incident and we are working to confirm the facts, however we can confirm there have been a number of fatalities.  Police is currently at a number of scenes. We understand that there will be many anxious people but I can assure New Zealanders that Police is doing all it can to resolve this incident. We urge New Zealanders to stay vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.  We are mobilising resources nationally and support is being brought into the District. We are still working to resolve this incident and we continue to urge Christchurch residents to stay inside. We ask all mosques nationally to shut their doors, and advise that people refrain from visiting these premises until further notice.” Update 10:55 p.m. EDT March 14: New Zealand media said an additional shooting has occurred in a second mosque in the city of Christchurch. Original report: As many as 30 people have been injured or killed, a child care center manager told Radio New Zealand. Witness Len Peneha told The Associated Press he saw a man dressed in black enter the Masjid Al Noor mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror. Peneha, who has lived next door to the mosque for about five years, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in Peneha’s driveway and fled. Peneha said he went into the mosque to try and help, “I saw dead people everywhere,” he said. Police are urging people in the area to stay indoors and schools in the area have been placed on lockdown. About 300 people were inside the mosque, according to RNZ. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A shooting on a Dutch tram left at least three people dead and several others injured in Utrecht, according to authorities. >> Read more trending news  The city’s mayor, Jan van Zanen, said three people were killed in the attack and nine others wounded, according to The Associated Press. Authorities have classed the incident as a possible terror attack. Update 10:25 a.m. EDT March 18: Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said three of the nine people wounded in Monday’s shooting were seriously injured, according to The Associated Press. “We cannot exclude, even stronger, we assume a terror motive,” van Zanen said Monday. “Likely there is one attacker, but there could be more.” Police have identified a man wanted in connection to the shooting as Gokmen Tanis, 37. Update 10:10 a.m. EDT March 18: Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said three people were killed and nine people were injured Monday in the Utrecht shooting, according to CNN and The Independent. Update 9:55 a.m. EDT March 18: Dutch police issued a correction Monday on the name of the man wanted in connection with the Utrecht shooting. Authorities said his name was spelled Gokmen Tanis. Officials initially identified the 37-year-old as Gokman Tanis. The Independent reported trains were not being allowed into Utrecht’s central train station in the wake of the shooting. Update 9:25 a.m. EDT March 18: Police in the Netherlands asked for the public’s help Monday locating a man wanted in connection to Monday’s shooting. Authorities warned against approaching the man, identified as Gokman Tanis, 37. Update 8:55 a.m. EDT March 18: The shooter behind Monday’s attack remained at large after the incident, according to Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the Dutch anti-terror coordinator. “In Utrecht there was a shooting at several locations,' he said Monday at a news conference, according to The Independent. 'A lot is still unclear at this point and local authorities are working hard to establish all the facts. What we already know is that a culprit is at large.' Authorities continue to investigate the shooting. Original report: Utrecht police wrote Monday in a tweet that a “possible terrorist (motive) is part of the investigation” into the shooting, which occurred about 10:45 a.m. local time, according to CNN. >> See the tweet here The gunman remained at large Monday and may have fled the scene in a car, according to BBC News.  After the attack the country’s anti-terror coordinator, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, raised the terror threat level in Utrecht to 5, its highest level. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • The teams have been chosen and brackets set up for the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. >> Read more trending news  The tournament begins Tuesday when the first of the “First Four” games are played, and gets into full swing on Thursday as the first round begins.  Here’s a look at the schedule for the 68-team field, tip-off times, channels and how to watch. How to watch: The games will be televised on four networks, CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. Check your TV provider for channel information. If you have CBS via a TV service provider, you can see all the games broadcast on CBS there. The CBS Sports App will not be showing the games for free. The CBS All-Access TV app will have the games available via a paid subscription.  TNT, TBS and truTV are available via streaming once you authenticate your tv provider subscriptions. The games are available on an NCAA March Madness Live TV app available via Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV set-top boxes. You can also get the games on Microsoft's Xbox videogame console and on the Android TV platform.  Below is the schedule for Tuesday and Wednesday’s “First Four” games and the schedule or the first round of the tournament which begins on Thursday. Check back here for an updated schedule of games as the tournament continues. All times are Eastern time. March Madness games schedule: Tuesday, March 19 – First Four 6:40 p.m.: Prairie View A&M vs. Fairleigh Dickinson – truTV After the conclusion: Temple vs. Belmont – truTV Wednesday, March 20 – First Four 6:40 p.m.: NC Central vs North Dakota State – truTV After the conclusion: St. John’s vs. Arizona State – truTV Thursday, March 21 – First Round 3:10 p.m.: Maryland vs. the winner of Tuesday’s Belmont/Temple game – truTV  12:40 p.m.: LSU vs. Yale – truTV  12:15 p.m.: Louisville vs. Minnesota – CBS  2:45 p.m.: Michigan State vs. Bradley – CBS 7:20 p.m.: Villanova vs. St. Mary’s – TBS  9:50 p.m.: Purdue vs. Old Dominion – CBS  1:30 p.m. Auburn vs. New Mexico State – TNT  4 p.m.: Kansas vs. Northeastern – TNT 9:40 p.m.: Wofford vs. Seton Hall – CBS  7:10 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Abilene Christian – CBS  7:27 p.m.: Gonzaga vs. the winner of Tuesday’s Farleigh Dickinson/Prairie View A&M game – truTV  9:57 p.m.: Syracuse vs. Baylor – truTV  4:30 p.m.: Marquette vs. Murray State – TBS  2 p.m.: Florida State vs. Vermont – TBS  6:50 p.m.: Nevada vs. Florida – TNT  9:20 p.m.: Michigan vs. Montana – TNT Friday, March 22 12:15 p.m.: Cincinnati vs. Iowa – CBS  12:40 p.m.: Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma – truTV  1:30 p.m.: Texas Tech vs. Northern Kentucky – TNT 2 p.m.: Kansas State vs. UC Irvine – TBS  2:45 p.m.: Tennessee vs. Colgate – CBS  3:10 p.m.: Virginia vs. Gardner Webb – truTV  4 p.m.: Buffalo vs. the winner of Wednesday’s Arizona State/St. John’s game – TNT  4:30 p.m.: Wisconsin vs. Oregon – TBS  6:50 p.m.: Utah State vs. Washington – TNT 7:10 p.m.: Duke vs. the winner of Wednesday’s North Carolina Central/North Dakota State game – CBS  7:20 p.m.: Houston vs. Georgia State – TBS  7:27 p.m.: Mississippi State vs. Liberty – truTV  9:20 p.m.: North Carolina vs. Iona – TNT 9:40 p.m.: VCU vs. UCF – CBS  9:50 p.m.: Iowa State vs. Ohio State – TBS  9:57 p.m.: Virginia Tech vs. St. Louis – truTV   The second round begins Saturday, March 23. The Sweet 16 round begins Thursday, March 28. The Elite Eight round begins Saturday, March 30. The final four play on Saturday, April 6. The National Championship game, held in Minneapolis, will be played Monday, April 8.     
  • Duval School leaders are inviting parents to a series of meetings on the school district’s aging public schools.  Over the last few months, Duval County Public Schools leaders have been sharing with community members and parents information about the district’s aging school problem. March 18th – kicks off the series of meetings that deal with draft recommendations for the district to move forward with all of the schools in the county. There is nothing extremely wrong with the schools. Leaders are stressing that all schools are both safe and operational. Superintendent Dr. Diana Green says they cannot ignore the impact the condition is having on the success of students and staff. “When facilities are not in good working order, our administrators spend a number of hours focusing on facilities instead of being instruction leaders and focused on the students.” According to a spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools – the draft scenarios include:  • Construction of 30 new schools as either replacement on-site or on new sites.  • 17 consolidations impacting 42 schools with children from those schools attending new or renovated school buildings. (Any buildings no longer in use as a result of the consolidations would be demolished and the land sold to prevent former schools from becoming a future blight.)  • Security upgrades at all schools and removal of the majority of portables from schools across the district.  • Cutting more than 5,000 student seats from the district’s inventory and improving the district’s facility utilization rate. Click here to see the dates and locations for each meeting.
  • Jacksonville-based FIS is buying Worldpay for approximately $35 billion.  FIS says the merge agreement expands its capabilities by enhancing its acquiring and payment offerings. The combined company will retain the name FIS and will be headquartered in Jacksonville.  In a statement announcing the acquisition, FIS says the combination of stock and cash values Worldpay at an enterprise value of approximately $43 billion. Worldpay is a leading payment technology company that processes over 40 billion transactions annually, supporting more than 300 payment types across more than 120 currencies. “Scale matters in our rapidly changing industry,” said Gary Norcross, chairman, president and chief executive officer, FIS. “Upon closing later this year, our two powerhouse organizations will combine forces to offer a customer-driven combination of scale, global presence and the industry’s broadest range of global financial solutions. As a combined organization, we will bring the most modern solutions targeted at the highest growth markets. The long-term value we will create for clients and for shareholders will set the bar in our industry and will create a range of new career opportunities for our employees. I have never been more excited about the future of FIS.”

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