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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Jaguars President Mark Lamping on Thursday addressed the possibility of putting the decision to Duval County voters about who should fund $2 billion in renovations to the team’s stadium and the surrounding area.
“There’s no decision yet of whether there’s a referendum or it’s just done some other way?” an interviewer asked Lamping at the AXS DRIVE conference in St. Louis on Thursday.
Although it’s unlikely Duval County voters will have a chance to weigh in on a ballot, Lamping said if that were to happen, the question would be straightforward.
“If there’s a referendum, the ballot question should be: Do you want to keep the NFL in Jacksonville?” Lamping said, according to a report from Sports Business Journal.
“Look, if Jacksonville loses an NFL team, they’re never going to get another one. And if the Jaguars have to relocate from Jacksonville, those of us that went down there would have failed. OK? And none of us want to face that,” Lamping earlier in the 30-minute interview on Thursday.
But Lamping, who spoke to News4JAX on Friday, pushed back on the report from SBJ and NBC Sports Pro Football Talk which also picked up the story and published it with the headline: “Jaguars make not-so-subtle threat to move, absent $1 billion in free money for renovation.”
Lamping said he takes issue with the fact that the stories published suggest the team would pull out of Jacksonville if the city doesn’t pitch in half of the cost for the Jaguars project.
“That’s obviously taken totally out of context,” Lamping told News4JAX. “What will happen, and it’s been very consistent, dating back to 2016, we can’t extend our lease unless we find a stadium solution. That is so important. You’ve heard me say that many, many times dating back to 2016. And try to turn that into a statement that here’s this ultimatum, it just isn’t true.”
The Jaguars have proposed a 50-50 split between the city and the team to pay for the projects which would include a total renovation of the stadium and improvements to the surrounding area, which would put taxpayers on the hook for $1 billion.
But a UNF poll released earlier this week found that a majority of registered Duval County voters are opposed to spending public funds on stadium and sports district development, although many would be willing to compromise to keep the Jaguars in town.
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The Public Opinion Research Lab survey asked several questions about the public-private partnership between the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguars to make renovations to the city-owned EverBank Stadium and develop the surrounding sports district.
Survey respondents were given a choice of outcomes, ranging from no public investment to spending $1 billion of public funds.
READ: Full results of UNF Poll
The researchers said that the results were not surprising: 51% chose the Jaguars to purchase the land and pay for stadium renovations and sports district development with no public investment.
Only 6% supported the $1 billion public investment currently being proposed by the Jaguars. And the remaining 33% were split between $250 million and $500 million of public funds being spent on the upgrades. The other 9% said they didn’t know or refused to answer.
But when the question was framed as an ultimatum: spend the $1 billion or the Jaguars leave town, the results changed significantly.
When asked whether they would support the city spending $1 billion if it meant the difference between the Jaguars staying in Jacksonville or moving to another city, 46% said yes and 47% said no. Even among those who oppose spending any public funds on the project, 33% were willing to split the cost when faced with the possibility of losing the team to another city.
“The crux of the issue is we need to figure out a long-term stadium solution,” Lamping told News4JAX. “And I’m confident we’ll get there. We’ve been working really hard on it. We’ve been working in partnership with the city for the last three years. It’s a really important issue. That’s why we got so far ahead of it, as opposed to being in a situation where we get to the end of the lease, and we don’t have a stadium solution. And that’s when cities and teams have found themselves in difficult situations.”
Right now the city and the Jaguars are trying to figure out the logistics of the deal. Mike Weinstein, who is on the city’s negotiating team, said there has been one two-hour meeting with the Jaguars’ negotiating team.
The Jaguars have said in the past they want to know the direction the negotiations are heading by the end of October.
The city and the Jaguars are working on setting up a second meeting.
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