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Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee Approves Stadium Renovation Bill

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Jacksonville City Council’s Finance Committee approved a proposed $90 million deal with the Jaguars for stadium renovations, a multi-purpose indoor practice field and a new amphitheatre — even though Jacksonville already has one at Metropolitan Park.

The plan calls for the city to evenly split the bill with Jaguars owner Shad Khan. The city would use two cents of a six percent tax charged to Jacksonville hotel guests to pay its part. That money is earmarked for sports complex maintenance by a bill passed through Council in 2009.

The new amphitheater carries a $45 million price tag alone. Jacksonville’s existing amphitheater is currently closed down while the city waits for the results of a structural evaluation.

Councilman Bill Gulliford says about 10 years ago a report conducted of Metropolitan Park’s theater identified several issues with the space even back then.

“One of the things [the report] said was that facility needs to be replaced and that didn’t have anything to do with structure, that was just a whole mariet of things,” Gulliford said. “But it’s outdated. It’s just problematic for the city.”

The new proposed amphitheater could serve as a replacement, although city Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa says he’s not ready to say that.

Councilman Danny Becton was the only finance committee member to vote against the makeover. He says if the new facility ends up being the city’s only amphitheater, the city needs to get a fair deal.

“If we’re going to put half the money into a facility,” Becton said, then perhaps maybe we need to have more than just partial use rights.”

Under the proposed deal, the city is only guaranteed five events in the space, although more can be added with enough notice. He says he’s also worried the city won’t be able to keep up with the required maintenance of the new spaces.

But City Finance Director Mike Weinstein says the new additions will create jobs and generate activity in the city.

“We’re in it to do the best we possibly can with taxpayer dollars, but provide the benefit to lots of people,” Weinstein said. “So it’s not a fair deal if you look at it as two businesses negotiating but we have lots of other benefits that they don’t have.“

City financial planners say Jacksonville will be making money off all the events by adding a surcharge to event tickets and parking.

The stadium bill will go through more council committees this week. It’s expected to come up for a vote by the full City Council next week.