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Council Approves $90 Million Deal With Jags For Amphitheater, Field, Upgrades

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A new amphitheater and practice field next to EverBank Field will be built after the Jacksonville City Council approved a deal with Jaguars owner Shad Khan Tuesday night.

Khan will cover half of the $90 million project, which also includes stadium upgrades. The other half will be paid for with tourism tax money reserved for stadiums and conference centers.  

As Councilman Doyle Carter pointed out Tuesday, the NFL team is the reason Jacksonville is allowed to charge as much “bed tax” on hotel rooms in the city. State law allows cities with major league sports teams to collect more of the tax than cities without them, he says. And state law also says that money can be spent on very limited activities that promote more tourism.

The Council approved the plans unanimously after hearing from three commenters who opposed it, including one from Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County. The comments urged the Council to slow down and try to negotiate a deal with better revenue potential for the city.

Several Council members said they acknowledge the deal probably isn’t perfect or “could be better,” but it’s a good use of the bed tax money nonetheless. 

One of them was District 8 Councilwoman Katrina Brown, who said her initial reaction was to vote against the proposal, but the numbers added up in the end.

“I just want people to understand that I think we’re intelligent enough to make decisions based on facts and not based on going to a game, receiving tickets to go to a game, etcetera,” she said.

The new facilities will be owned by the city and leased to the Jaguars for operation. The amphitheater will provide more seating than the one at Metro Park, which has been closed over safety concerns.

Councilman Bill Gulliford said the Met Park amphitheater’s funding structure and noise complaints from across the river make it unusable going forward.  The new amphitheater next to EverBank Field will impose restrictions on which directions the stage can face to minimize noise in the surrounding areas.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP