Jacksonville councilmember: We can’t demand Jaguars lease extension for Lot J approval, or how will they hold us up for more subsidies later?

NOPE NOT MUCH NEWS TO REPORT YESTERDAY, NUH UH

Let’s take a break from trying to make sense of whatever the hell is going on here and instead look forward to the future. Namely, to later today, when the Jacksonville city council gets set to hold its first vote on Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s proposal for a massive development on his team’s stadium’s Lot J. The Lot J plan, you will recall, would require more than $200 million in city cash, interest-free loans, and tax breaks, but never fear! Some council members are proposing amendments!

City Council member Ron Salem said Wednesday he has worked with the Jaguars on an amendment saying that if the team were to leave Jacksonville before 2034 and Khan’s affiliate Gecko Investments sold its stake in the Lot J development, the city would get 50 percent of the proceeds from such a sale.

Salem said the amendment responds to concerns he’s heard that the Lot J deal should come with an extension of the Jaguars lease for TIAA Bank Field, which currently runs through 2030.

Ummmm, that doesn’t actually respond to those concerns at all, does it? The team could still leave Jacksonville, and so long as Khan held on to his stake in the development, the city would be squat out of luck. Not to mention that it would only cover an additional four years past the end of the existing lease. If the issue is wanting Khan to promise to keep the team in town for longer, why not, you know, make that part of the deal?

He said it’s not realistic to link the lease extension to Lot J because the city and the Jaguars will be talking in the coming years about TIAA Bank Field renovations and the lease extension will be tied to stadium improvements.

I mean. This is really quite something. We’ve seen local elected officials carry water for sports team owners before — lord, have we seen that — but I can’t remember a time previously when one has said, we can’t demand concessions from the local sports baron, because then what will he have left to trade with us when he comes back for more cash? Even if you give Councilmember Salem the benefit of the doubt and think what he really meant was Khan won’t agree to a lease extension now because he’s waiting to use it for Round Two, that’s still pretty remarkable, given that the council is totally within its rights to just sit on its hands and not approve anything until it gets what it wants.

There are other amendments on the table as well:

  • Council president Tommy Hazouri has proposed removing the city’s $65.5 million no-interest loan from the financing plan, which the Florida Times-Union reports “would drop the city’s total commitment to $167.5 million,” though if you look at the numbers the subsidy could still be close to $200 million even without the loan.
  • Hazouri and councilmember Randy DeFoor have proposed an amendment requiring that if the Jaguars leave Jacksonville, Khan would have to pay “liquifidated damages” (no, that’s not a word) of up to $152 million, though that figure would decline over time.
  • Councilmember Rory Diamond is seeking to prevent any city officials involved in the Lot J deal from going to work for Khan or his partners for five years after leaving their city jobs; current “revolving door” laws only prohibit jumping to companies you’ve voted to aid for a span of two years.

Today’s vote is just a committee vote to move the proposal to the floor of the full council, but because it’s the “committee of the whole,” everyone on the council will be voting, so it’ll be a good litmus test of how Tuesday’s final vote will go, if it happens. It’s possible that today’s vote could approve a vote Tuesday but that the one then will fail — Tuesday’s vote, unlike today’s, will require a supermajority of 13 out of 19 councilmembers since it requires a change to the city capital budget in the middle of the budget year. You can watch today’s hearing, starting at 10 am ET, via Zoom using the login information here. If, you know, you don’t have anything better to pay attention to today.

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9 comments on “Jacksonville councilmember: We can’t demand Jaguars lease extension for Lot J approval, or how will they hold us up for more subsidies later?

    1. I just turned on WFMU this morning, and the first thing the DJ said was “Good morning, and welcome to the society of the spectacle!”

      Apparently 2020 is going to happen twice, the second time as farce.

  1. Does the NFL actually want Khan to make any commitment (contractual or otherwise) to keeping his franchise in Jacksonville?

    We know that the award of a franchise in this city was not popular with quite a number of the then-current owners. I keep thinking how Jones and Kroenke view having Jacksonville in the league…

    I don’t mean to disrespect the city, but (like a number of others) it isn’t really a location that fits the modern NFL. And it doesn’t have the cachet (historic or otherwise) of a market like Green Bay (which lets not forget, is very close to a couple of large markets).

    At some point the Jags will leave for a bigger market. Perhaps it would make more sense to negotiate an exit now as opposed to throwing money at them in the hopes they will stick around for a decade or two.

    Is Khan doing anything other than trying to squeeze the most he can out of the orange before throwing away the pulp?

    1. Does it really matter where any NFL team plays? The vast majority of fans are watching on TV, and it’s all national TV, so would the NFL make more money if the Jaguars were in a biggest market? This is a league, after all, that happily burbled along without any teams in L.A. for more than 20 years.

      London would open up the possibility of a more lucrative UK TV deal, but it would also mean a hell of a lot of long travel and jet lag. And anyplace else in the U.S. just seems like you could throw a dart at a map and it wouldn’t make much difference, in terms of revenue.

      1. No-one is losing money in this league. The question is could they make more somewhere else? As far as I know the league does not publish “local” revenues for it’s teams. Nevertheless, I think Jacksonville would be among the lowest local revenue clubs (and probably the lowest) in most years. I agree that all clubs likely turn a profit without selling a ticket… but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about sports franchise owners, it’s that it’s never ‘enough’.

        LA was a great stalking horse (or perhaps trojan horse would be a more apt term). The league made a staggering amount of money by having it open and “ready and waiting” to steal your favourite team. That window has now closed.

        There aren’t many large markets out there without a team. However there are quite a number open that are larger and more affluent than Jacksonville/N. Florida.

        San Diego and St. Louis are both top 20 markets recently vacated… and oft mentioned favourites (I assume based on population alone) Portland, San Antonio and San Jose are all significantly larger.

        All five mentioned candidates have issues to overcome (mostly venue related… though it seems there are venue related issues in Jacksonville as well). In a shell game there are always more shells without marbles/balls under than with.

        1. Jacksonville is growing like Gangbusters. Its becoming more of a white collar market as opposed to the service oriented Tampa

        2. Also, local revenue is a fairly small slice of the pie in the NFL. And doesn’t vary as much as in other sports – you don’t need a very big city to sell out eight games a year.

        3. No doubt true… but still, 13th from the bottom in a 6-10 season.

          https://www.statista.com/statistics/193553/revenue-of-national-football-league-teams-in-2010/

          The data is for 2019 despite the link reference. Three (arguably five) of the teams below them on that list were in heavily encumbered situations in 2019 (Oakland, LAC, Cincinnati).

        4. Of the potential cities you mention, only 1, perhaps Portland could be considered a possibility.

          St. Louis has been burned twice by the league and there’s no sweetheart deal there for the offering.

          Similarly, San Diego would not provide any public financing.

          As long as Jerry Jones continues to have power in the NFL, San Antonio would never be considered.

          And, your inclusion of San Jose indicates a lack of geographical awareness. The 49ers play in Santa Clara, physically the town over.

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