Everything Jacksonville Mayor-elect Donna Deegan has said about TIAA Bank Field
Donna Deegan is set to become the first-ever female mayor of Jacksonville after winning a runoff election Tuesday. While it’s historic news for the largest city in Florida, it’s also set to have significant implications for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars are in the midst of planning a massive renovation of their home stadium, TIAA Bank Field. Outgoing Mayor Lenny Curry said that negotiations with the city have already begun, but it’ll be up to the next administration to get a deal across the finish line.
So where does Deegan stand on the pricey construction project at TIAA Bank Field? She offered plenty of perspective during her time on the campaign trail.
In February, Deegan and the other top candidates spoke to News4Jax about a number of issues, including the Jaguars. Here’s what Deegan had to say about the negotiations with the team:
“Listen, you know, I used to go to the Jacksonville Bulls games back when we had the USFL here, right? I remember Colts fever. I remember all those efforts to get NFL teams all those years, and I certainly remember that absolutely impossible, improbable night that we were all sitting on the anchor desk, and Jacksonville did the impossible and got the Jaguars. I’ve been sitting in that stadium in the north end zone for years with people from every walk of life in this city who love the Jaguars and have positive feelings for each other.
“And I guess I’m saying all that because Jacksonville is a can-do city when we work together to do things. And I believe — I’ve spoken with Shad Khan — I believe he wants to be part of that Jacksonville Renaissance story. But here’s the bottom line: We have to have someone who is willing to negotiate on behalf of the city. It can’t just be OK, here’s my wallet, I’ll open it and take out what you like.
“I think that any businessman, or businesswoman, would respect someone who would negotiate with them in good faith on behalf of the city and that’s what we have to do. We’ve got a lot of needs in this city and we have to take a much larger view. There are many needs that we have, and it can’t just be about the stadium, it has to be about more than that. And I would certainly hope that the Jaguars would sign a long-term lease on the stadium. I want to keep the stadium and city hands, there’s a lot of things we can do with it, but I think we need some commitments there.”
In an interview with the Jacksonville Daily Record, Deegan said that she plans to bring in an experienced outside negotiating team to hammer out the deal:
“I think there are a number of people that negotiate with the NFL on a regular basis. We would bring in the best negotiators. I don’t have a name for you right now. But we are going to bring in the people who do that work.
“You know, frankly, I just think that to have the same person who brought us Lot J as a great option for our city to negotiate that deal is really probably not the best thing for us.
“I think we need to make sure we’re bringing in the people that are used to dealing with the NFL. That’s what I’m talking about when I say you bring in the best people. No matter where they’re from, bring in the best people to negotiate that deal.
“I will very intentionally also go after private money for this. I’m hoping we can build a lot of private investment in this. But I think it’s going to be a combination of private money, city money, Mr. Khan and the NFL. It’s going to be a combination of those things. For me to negotiate that here would be a mistake.”
Deegan later said in that interview that she would like TIAA Bank Field to continue to be owned by Jacksonville and leased to the Jaguars:
“I would like for the stadium to remain city-owned. I love the thought of being able to go after college playoff games and other uses for that stadium, using it for city purposes as well. You know, I think I understand the public sentiment about all this. I really do. I think that my job will be to get the best deal for the city, but also to go out there and listen to what folks are saying in the communities and try to make sure that we bring people into the process.
“That’s true of anything with our city. If you can communicate with people, listen to them, bring them into the process and have everybody understand why you’re leading the way you’re leading, at the very least, there’s less confusion and there’s less feeling that there’s a wall between us in and them.”
Finally, Deegan said in a short statement last week that she expects the Jaguars to continue to play in Jacksonville during construction. In an interview with 1010XL, Curry invited speculation about a temporary home for the Jaguars when he said the team will be forced to play elsewhere for two years because of the project.
Jaguars president Mark Lamping called that assertion premature and said that a four-year renovation could keep the team at home. However, both the University of North Florida and the University of Florida said they have been contacted by the Jaguars about potentially hosting games.
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