‘Jaguars’ lease extension an uphill task’


Jacksonville Jaguars lease extension Image: Populous

The National Football League (NFL) team Jacksonville Jaguars any potential extension of the team’s present lease with the City of Jacksonville (US) beyond 2030 would have to clear several NFL obstacles, including a major reimagination of its residence TIAA Bank Field, before owner Shad Khan could even consider striking a deal. This information was given by the team President Mark Lamping to mediapersons.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are a professional football franchise based in Jacksonville, Florida (US). They compete in the National Football League as a member club of the American Football Conference South division. The team plays its home games at TIAA Bank Field.

Lamping informed that any lease extension would require three-quarters majority approval of NFL owners, and he pointed out that there is no room for acceptance without a major stadium revamp work. He said that the approval would be more appealing once development happens in Lot J next to TIAA Bank Field.

“If you’re going to be making a long-term extension of a lease, there needs to be certainty that you’re going to have an NFL-quality stadium during the term of that extension. That’s obvious, no different than when the Jaguars came to Jacksonville,” he further pointed out.

“The NFL wasn’t going to bring a team here [in 1995] and have them play in the old Gator Bowl. That hasn’t changed at all. That question needs to be answered. That’s why we have been raising this for the past couple of years. So we’re getting ahead of it. Going to the league now and trying to get a lease extension without a stadium solution is going to end up not where we want it to end up,” Lamping added.

Lamping noted that the intentions of Khan, who was greeted with much skepticism since the City is being asked for up to $233.3 million in investments and incentives toward an estimated $450 million cost of the Lot J development, should be judged on a track record of his investing in Jacksonville, “not on what you think he’s going to do”.

Lamping explained that one of the reasons the Jaguars have been reluctant to speak publicly until now about a lease extension is “as soon as that word is mentioned, some people perceive it as a threat [to leave]. That’s not the case at all. So that’s why we tend to be really careful around any type of discussion on the lease and prefer that people judge Shad based on what he’s done.”

While the Jaguars’ lease with the City still has 10 years remaining, it has become part of the debate surrounding whether taxpayers should give Khan and development partner The Cordish Companies that much in economic incentives to build a mixed-use development on Lot J.

The proposed agreement Khan reached with Mayor Lenny Curry’s office would result in the most lucrative incentives package ever granted to a single project. Though many City and civic leaders are supportive of Khan’s vision for Lot J, there’s also growing scrutiny as to the terms of the deal, which has been criticized as being one-sided toward the Jaguars’ owner.

Few Council members hold the view that those terms would be easier to justify if Khan made a long-term commitment to stay in Jacksonville, as the project’s success would be dependent on the Jaguars staying in the City.

He talked about how just small parts of the Lot J proposal, such as building on an existing parking lot and replacing it with another parking lot, impacts the lease and would be subject to review by multiple NFL owners committees.

Lamping added, “[A lease extension] has to go to a vote of the owners that requires three-quarters vote. That same provision would apply as it relates to the extension of our lease [receiving approval from NFL owners] and, to tell you, there’s no way that the NFL would even consider a long-term extension of a lease with Jacksonville without a long-term solution for the stadium.”

He stated that Jacksonville is the only NFL City besides Buffalo that hasn’t either built a new stadium nor done a major repurposing work (defined in the $400-500 million range) to its existing stadium. Khan and the City have earlier invested in some renovations like the scoreboards in both end zones and club seat upgrades, but none of those are deemed “major” in the eyes of NFL owners.

With the proposed Lot J agreement being reviewed by the Downtown Investment Authority, Lamping wanted to clear the air about the lengthy process involved with a lease extension.

As for the Lot J development and the City’s probable capital injection in the project, Lamping emphasized that Khan’s past investment commitments in Jacksonville – both in stadium upgrades and philanthropic community endeavors – should work in his favor with the decision-makers. He hoped the ultimate Lot J decision isn’t swayed much by the Jaguars’ current 1-9 record on the field or disappointing seasons in the last decade.

In Lamping’s view, Khan’s approximate $260 million investment in Lot J, plus $200 million in the first phase of the Shipyards development and $190 million in the second phase, should speak in volumes as to his commitment to Jacksonville’s future. He also pointed out how Khan kept the team here during his early years of ownership when speculation was rampant he would move it to London or possibly US Cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas that were aggressively pursuing a franchise.

He noted, “I can tell you our discussion about this [Lot J] thing would be a lot easier if the team were performing better. Again, these are really long, long-term plans that are being made. You don’t get ready to invest another $650 million in downtown Jacksonville if you didn’t believe in the City, and you certainly wouldn’t do that if you were planning on leaving.”

While Lamping stressed that repurposing the facility is the most critical component to earning NFL owner approval on a lease extension, the Lot J project can’t be overlooked in the equation because the league wants a vibrant downtown setting for its franchises.

He stated, “NFL owners and league staff, they’ve been in every City and they know what the [downtown] experience is like. Nashville is an awesome place. A City like Indianapolis is a great place to visit. Charlotte came into the league at the same time as Jacksonville. I think if you did an honest assessment of, what’s the state of downtown Charlotte today versus the state of downtown Jacksonville? Which of those two communities have made significant progress over the last 25 years? I think the scales would tilt a little bit toward Charlotte, without question.”

The proposed Lot J deal would require the City to pay up to $50 million to build a 75,000 square-foot outdoor entertainment district, which would serve as the anchor of the development. It would also include two residential towers, a hotel and 40,000 square feet of Class A office space.

Under the proposed deal, the City would also spend between $77.7 million and $92.8 million on public infrastructure and provide Khan a $65 million interest-free loan, a $12.5 million grant for the hotel and a $12.5 million property tax rebate for the residential towers.

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