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Public wants better Jaguars stadium, but not with taxpayer money

Ryan Ketterman
For Visit Jacksonville

Jacksonville voters overwhelmingly oppose devoting public money to renovating TIAA Bank Field.

In a University of North Florida poll released Wednesday, 49% of voters strongly oppose spending $375 million to install a roof on the football stadium. The poll also found 80% of voters oppose splitting the cost of a new stadium for the Jaguars.

The Jaguars’ lease at TIAA Bank Field expires in 2030. The team has stated multiple times it would like to renovate the stadium before resigning a lease.

UNF political science professor Michael Binder said the results are atypical for Jacksonville.

“There is very little partisan disagreement,” Binder told First Coast Connect host Melissa Ross. “Sixty-eight percent of Democrats, 68% of Republicans strongly oppose spending that kind of money on a new stadium. Forty-five percent of Democrats and 50% of Republicans strongly oppose spending that kind of money on a roof. So, there's unanimity across the parties, that this is not a popular item at this point in time.”

The Jaguars have identified five areas for the renovated stadium: shade over all seating, wider concourses, improved vertical transportation and new HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems, as well as increased space for its football operations.

The Jaguars recently surveyed fans and found:

  • 89% would support renovating the stadium.
  • 78% would be more likely to attend a game if the stadium were renovated.
  • 77% said shade is very or extremely important in their seating decision.

But the Jaguars survey did not address how improvements would be funded.

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The team is expected to move into the Miller Electric Center, a 125,000-square-foot sports performance center next year. The city of Jacksonville has proposed spending $24 million in the upcoming fiscal year’s Capital Improvement Plan — of which $22.8 million is borrowed — to build the Miller Electric Center.

In February, UNF's Public Opinion Research Lab asked voters whether they would support or oppose combining with the Jaguars to spend up to $1 billion on a new stadium. At that time 53% strongly opposed and 17% somewhat opposed.

Since then, the Buffalo Bills, the one team Jaguars leadership has compared their stadium situation to, have announced plans to build a $1.4 billion stadium that will include $850 million of taxpayer financing.

Florida’s two other NFL teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins, have renovated their stadiums within the last decade.

The Buccaneers redesigned their club seating, renovated their press box and locker room area, and created a 10,000-square-foot bar. The nearly $160 million in renovations included about $30 million in public money.

The Dolphins privately funded the nearly $500 million renovation of Hard Rock Stadium, including providing shade for 92% of the seats.

The most recent UNF Primary Poll used a random sample of 491 likely primary voters and was conducted Aug. 8 through Aug. 12. It has a margin of error of +/- 5.9 percentage points.