Wouldn’t it be much easier and cheaper if the politicians in Jacksonville just gave the NFL’s Jaguars what they want now instead of going through the ceremonial and useless dog and pony show that will inevitably end up with them getting exactly what they wanted in the first place?
The longer Jacksonville waits to commit at least half of the money the Jaguars want for their estimated $2 billion stadium renovation project, the more it will end up costing city taxpayers in the end. In today’s inflationary times, construction costs and overruns are only going to go up and that guesstimated $2 billion price tag will soon be $2.2 billion … $2.5 billion … hey, do I hear $3 billion?
Mark my words: In the end, Jacksonville will end up paying whatever they need to pay to keep their NFL team in town, and the reason is very simple. Just listen to what Jaguars president Mark Lamping said last week when asked at a sports industry conference what would happen if Jacksonville residents were asked to vote yes or no on giving the Jaguars $1 billion for the stadium project.
“If there’s a referendum, the ballot question should be: Do you want to keep the NFL in Jacksonville?” Lamping answered. “Look, if Jacksonville loses an NFL team, they’re never going to get another one. And if the Jaguars have to relocate from Jacksonville, those of us that went down there would have failed. OK? And none of us want to face that.”
A few days later, Lamping tried to walk back his not-so-veiled threat about moving the Jaguars out of Jacksonville when he told News4JAX that his comments were “taken totally out of context.”
If you ask me, Lamping’s comments weren’t taken out of context at all and there was no need to clarify or apologize for them. While his remarks weren’t very diplomatic, they were completely accurate and honest. If Jacksonville loses the Jaguars, the city becomes Birmingham — a minor-league baseball town that is a candidate for alphabet football leagues, start-up basketball leagues, Major League Table Tennis and the National Pickleball League.
Because Jacksonville is such a small market (41st in the country), the city will never be a candidate for another NFL team, an NBA team or a Major League Baseball team. For comparison’s sake, Orlando is the 17th-ranked TV market in the country and has nearly double the number of TV homes as Jacksonville.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Jacksonville and worked there for a number of years. It’s a great city with beautiful beaches and the scenic St. Johns River flowing right through the middle of its downtown. However, it does not check all of the demographic, geographic boxes when it comes to being a major league sports city. That’s why Jacksonville leaders know that they must do whatever’s necessary to keep the Jaguars.
Jacksonville’s population base is more in line with Oklahoma City — another one-sport town where Mayor David Holt recently announced plans to fund a new $1 billion arena for the local NBA team (the Thunder). However, the proposal, in which the team pay a miniscule $50 million of the arena’s total cost, must go before Oklahoma City voters in a special election in December.
“I think people need to understand the clock is ticking,” Holt said earlier this month. “I’d say there’s no Plan B if [the city] wants to be big league.”
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