Officials approve stadium funds

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville city officials have matched Jaguars owner Shad Khan's commitment to keeping the team in Jacksonville.

The city council on Tuesday voted 14-2 to approve $43 million of $63 million in stadium upgrades to EverBank Field. Khan has already pledged the remaining $20 million help to finance two new video scoreboards and an interactive area that will include a pool.

"We are very appreciative of the support of City Council," Jaguars president Mark Lamping said. "A project like this requires vision and forward thinking, and that is what has been demonstrated by the many people involved."

The city will pay the $43 million from its Sports Complex Maintenance Fund, which is funded by a 2 percent tax on hotel guests in Duval County. None of the money in the city's general fund – which pays for services such as public safety, parks and libraries -- will used.

The Jacksonville Business Journal reported the measure passed a committee earlier in the day by a 15-1 vote. The lone dissenter was Stephen Joost, who told the Business Journal that the Jaguars should give the city a guarantee that they would not move. Joost said he was concerned that without a guarantee in writing the Jaguars could mimic what the Atlanta Braves did on Monday when the team announced it was leaving the city for nearby Cobb County.

"Who's to say that's not going to happen to us in 10 or 15 or 20 years," Joost said. "Let's have some assurances that you're not going to more or, No. 2, if you say you're going to bring in additional events, let's put it in writing."

Lamping, during a committee meeting last week, said Khan has made clear his commitment to Jacksonville. In addition to the $20 million for the stadium upgrades, Khan has already spent $11 million on improvements to the weight room, locker room and training facility -- all of which are housed in the stadium.

Construction on the upgrades is expected to begin in January and be finished in July 2014. In addition to the two video scoreboards -- which the Jaguars say will be the largest of their kind in the world -- the upgrades will include a state-of-the-art control room, a pool, and North Florida-themed imagery to capture the flavor of the First Coast area.

The Jaguars and the annual TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl are the stadium's main tenants, but city officials are hoping the upgrades will make the facility an attractive option for additional sporting events, such as neutral-site college football games, a college football playoff game, the national championship, and possibly even a second Super Bowl. The city played host to Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.