The polls are in from Jacksonville — well, one poll is, anyway — and local residents are strongly opposed to spending $200 million in public money on Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Lot J development project, even more strongly opposed to funding a $250 million stadium renovation, and even more strongly in favor of Khan’s plans going to a public vote:
When registered voters were asked whether they support or oppose the city’s [Lot J] spending proposal, 54% of respondents said they strongly or somewhat oppose it with 43% supporting strongly or somewhat.
A strong majority of all respondents, 80%, said the question should be put to Jacksonville voters in the form of a referendum…
Respondents were also asked whether they support or oppose the City of Jacksonville splitting the cost of major improvements to TIAA Bank Field with the Jaguars, costing the city $250 million. A large majority, 62%, were opposed to this idea, with just 37% supporting the proposal. An even greater majority opposed building a new stadium for $700 million, at 77%.
None of this is surprising: It’s very common for local residents to be opposed to handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to local sports team owners, because, well, duh. It almost certainly doesn’t help that the Jaguars have been terrible in recent memory (when I just Googled “Jacksonville Jaguars record,” the first “People also ask” suggestion was “How bad are the Jacksonville Jaguars?”) and that Khan has already been to the well on this before: According to Jacksonville Business Journal, 49% of poll respondents said “previous public-private partnerships failed to live up to expectations.”
In the halls of political power and the adjacent corridors of sportswriting, though, it’s usually seen as appropriate to kowtow a bit to the local billionaire, which can make it difficult when determining how to balance the 800-pound gorilla asking for cash with the constituents (or readers) who are clamoring not to give it to him. This brings us to this amazing Florida Times Union column by former Jacksonville sports anchor and Jaguars preseason play-by-play announcer Sam Kouvaris, which bends over backwards to say that the Khan deal is both terrific and terrible at the same time:
Between the election, the reporting on the pandemic, lockdowns and everything else, it’s hard to figure out who to believe.
Great start! Of course, it’s always hard to figure out who to believe — figuring out who to believe is pretty much the whole point of journalism — but blaming “the reporting on the pandemic” makes this point topical, somehow, maybe?
This Lot J situation has me confused. I’m not sure I believe anybody. Not the media, not politicians, pollsters, nor businessmen involved.
A pox on all their houses! But do tell, why is everyone wrong?
I liked everything about it. It’s vibrant, it’s supposed bring people downtown and start to revitalize that side of the river.
The problem, it seemed, as the plan was fleshed out and scrutinized, was how to pay for it?
Well, yes. I can’t say I’ve read every line of media coverage of the Lot J plan, but I’m fairly certain no one would be opposed to replacing a parking lot with new development if it didn’t cost anyone any money.
If it’s Shad’s plan to work on downtown by starting at the stadium and marching west, then so be it. I’m all for hitching our wagon to Shad and seeing where he takes us.
Billionaires always have the best city planning ideas! Especially billionaires who used to sign your paychecks!
Keeping the Jaguars here is important on a lot of levels.
Especially especially billionaires who are threatening to move the team you’ve spent much of your career making a living by reporting on!
Winning at a 29% clip over the last eight years isn’t any way to build leverage.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are very bad. Do not give them money until they win games!
Perhaps the whole deal is on the up and up. Maybe it’s a way the city will continue to prosper and flourish at a new level, Shad will make money, and everybody will be happy. I sure hope that’s the case.
But all along, something just doesn’t feel right.
Definitely one of those!
You’ve got to agree with Council President Tommy Hazouri when he said, “If it’s going to take seven to nine years to build this project, what’s another two or three weeks?”
An actual opinion! It contradicts Kouvaris’s earlier statement that he doesn’t believe anybody, but let’s be happy for any conclusion we can get.
What never has made sense to me is how these negotiations get played out in public here in Jacksonville. Do we ever hear about the Steelers and Pittsburgh squabbling about a lease extension or stadium improvements? The Chiefs and Kansas City? Chicago and the Bears?
If we’re going to be an NFL city, we’ll have to pony up the money to keep improving the stadium and perhaps at some point, build a new one.
Another actual opinion, one that somewhat contradicts the earlier one. Though I suppose “Let’s think about this for a few more weeks, then approve it” is a valid position, even if kind of a stupid one.
There’s more, including how the Jaguars management needs to better understand “ticket-buying fans” and “eat in their restaurants,” and how Khan’s lobbyist (“who has represented me in the past,” writes Kouvaris, with no explanation) is warning that a deal needs to be approved soon to avoid “deal fatigue,” and how Kouvaris ultimately wants “something where everybody wins.” That’s a lovely thing to want, but maybe not entirely realistic when you’re talking about who’s going to pony up $450 million toward a stadium development when most stadiums can’t even repay their own construction costs. Dividing a pie evenly is tough when you start out with negative pie — which is maybe why so many sportswriters prefer to go with “This is all too confusing for my puny little brain, I hope someone else can work it out! Also, listen to ticket-buying fans! But not pollsters, those guys are bad news.