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$1.7 billion Jaguars Stadium deal unveiled, but some aspects are immediately generating pushback

The Stadium of the Future deal struck between the Jaguars and Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan totals $1.7 billion, but the mayor argues the investment is worth the price tag.

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“It will not only have an enormous economic impact on Jacksonville, to the tune of $26 billion over the life of this lease, but the NFL has been adamant if we want to keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville, and we do, this stadium is a mandatory step,” Deegan told council members during Tuesday night’s presentation.

The City of Jacksonville would put up $925 million in total, while the Jags would put up $775 million under the agreement.

The only reason those numbers don’t add up to a perfect 50/50 split is because the city will be required to pay $150 million for maintenance costs on the existing structure, which it would be on the hook for with or without a deal.

The team and the city would both pay $625 million for the renovation itself.

Aside from the renovation and maintenance costs, the team and the city would both contribute $150 million for community development projects.

Those projects will include a combined $125 million for the workforce, affordable housing, and homelessness programs.

There’s also $70 million for parks and $105 million for the Eastside.

The combined $300 million for community development is a welcome addition for some council members like Jimmy Peluso (D-District 7).

“It’s not just going to be a District 7 thing or around the downtown area thing, or even the Eastside. You know, this is something that’s going to benefit the whole city,” said Peluso.

The mayor characterized the investment as a way of making the deal work for everyone in the county.

“These are the types of things that if we invest in right now and then the Jaguars continue to invest in for 30 years, there’s no limit to what we’ll be able to do downtown,” said Deegan.

The deal would require the Jaguars to assume the responsibility of maintaining the renovated stadium.

The team would also be required to pick up the tab if construction costs exceed initial projections.

“The Jaguars are at risk on that 100 percent. So, the city’s investment is fixed, unless it comes in under budget and then we share equally what the under budget is,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping.

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But not everyone is receiving the proposed deal with open arms.

The $150 million city share for community development is a non-starter for Councilmember Rory Diamond (R-District 13).

“This deal is exactly the same as it was last year, except now we have a new $150 million of spending that has nothing to do with the stadium,” said Diamond.

Diamond also took issue with the proposed funding mechanism.

The plan would delay the ability of the police and fire pension to begin collecting its share of the half-penny sales tax by four years.

“We went to the voters a couple of years ago and said, hey listen, let’s extend this tax so that we can take care of our police officers and our firefighters and their retirement and now they want to put that off for four years,” said Diamond. “That is both dangerous and just dishonest.”

But Mayor Deegan noted the delay simply moves the collection start date back to 2031, which was the original plan when voters approved the extension of the half penny sales tax.

She promised the pension would still be fully funded in the end.

“I think somehow it just sounds too simple to you folks. It did to me at first. I’m like can it be that simple? Can we save that amount of money and still do what we need to do? And the answer is yes,” said Deegan.

Under the proposed timeline, work would begin on the stadium renovation next February and end in time for the stadium to reopen in August of 2028.

Council President Ron Salem (R-Group 2 At-Large) said at the very least, he hopes to get the stadium renovation portion of the deal across the finish line by the end of June.

“But not at the expense of people still uncomfortable with the deal,” said Salem.

Whether council members can coalesce around a final agreement quickly remains to be seen.

Lamping said he expects the deal to be fully vetted by the council before it’s given final approval, but he noted the clock is ticking.

Delays could increase construction costs, which could threaten the hopes of getting any deal done at all.

“Time is money and delaying this project adds no value to the city and it adds no value for us,” said Lamping.

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