Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan may have struck out (so far) with getting the state of Florida to give him $1 million a year to pay off $18 million in stadium renovations, but fortunately for billionaire sports team owners with Avery Schreiber moustaches, there’s always another level of Florida government to ask for public money. And so:
A bill filed this week for Jacksonville City Council calls for a $90 million upgrade to the stadium, with the city paying $45 million and Jaguars owner Shad Khan $45 million.
The proposal calls for a $45 million amphitheater that would seat 10,000 people for concerts and special events to be located on the south end of the stadium in place of the fan zone. The plan also includes a $20 million indoor practice field and $25 million to upgrade the stadium’s club seats.
That’s a much more ambitious renovation, certainly, with two new buildings added to the Jaguars complex, though the amphitheater looks like it would be mostly just a roof over a grassy field. (Which $45 million seems pricey for, but I guess the smaller amphitheater in Chicago’s Millennium Park cost $60 million, so maybe these things are just expensive.) The city would own the practice field and concert space (look, ma, no property taxes!), while the Jaguars would run it and get all revenues, though the city could use them by asking nicely and giving 60 days’ notice.
To pay for its share, the city would use hotel tax money, which is already being used to pay for the Jaguars’ new scoreboard, but that’s okay, mayoral chief administrative officer Sam Mousa says there’s more hotel tax money where that came from:
Annual payback would come through part of the city’s 6 percent bed tax. Of that, 2 percent goes toward the last round of improvements that included the field’s scoreboards. But Mousa said there is capacity in that funding source to accommodate these improvements.
Where Mousa gets that, when there’s only $1.6 million a year left in the bed tax fund to pay for any future stadium improvements plus maintenance costs, beats me, but he’s the chief administrative officer, after all.
In exchange for its $45 million, Jacksonville would get a promise that the Jaguars would not … no? No lease extension or other commitment from Khan not to move the team, just a promise of “you keep us happy, and you got nothing to worry about”? Me, I’d get that in writing.
Regardless, it sounds like the city council is already on board with this, leaving it to Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County president John Winkler to complain to News4Jax about the proposed deal:
“Again, why are we doing this? A football stadium is designed, supposedly, for the playing of football. I don’t quite understand why we have to attempt to incorporate every other feature of every other entertainment venue into the actual football stadium,” Winkler said. “This is the worst kind of example of corporate welfare, where you wind up going to the taxpayers and there’s this implicit threat that if we don’t pony up as much money as conceivable, that somehow we’re going to lose the professional football franchise.”
No, the worst kind of corporate welfare is where there’s an implicit threat that if you don’t pony up money, you’ll somehow lose the franchise — and then even if you do pony up the money, the team still has the threat to use over again. Which is exactly the scenario that Jacksonville would be facing. So, yeah, pretty bad, unless you buy “hey, it’s only $45 million and we were going to have to blow it on something for the Jaguars and maybe the stadium won’t need much maintenance even with adding two new buildings” as an argument.