JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A nice perk for some of Jacksonville's city leaders could soon be a thing of the past as budget concerns prompt officials to consider giving up luxury suites at some downtown venues.
The city spends thousands of dollars each year to buy tickets for skyboxes at Jaguars games, and in the past, money was also spent on food and drinks.
It's a nice bonus for city leaders to have a luxury suite at the football stadium and at the arena. City leaders, some employees and special guests, such as nonprofit groups, get to see a game or a concert.
As part of the contract with the Jaguars, the city gets the use of two skyboxes at the stadium. One of the boxes is for the mayor, and the other is for the city council. The city just has to buy tickets for the game.
However, that perk is on the chopping block.
"This, as a number of other things, will certainly be on the top of our priority list to reexamine and determine if it is something we will continue to spend and invest in," said Mayor's Office spokeswoman Misty Skipper.
In New York City, leaders have already made a similar decision. After Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration worked hard to get a free luxury suite at the new Yankee Stadium, they decided to give it up and instead get the money the Yankees earn from selling the seats in the box.
Now, Jacksonville might follow suit of other cities like New York, where skyboxes are just out of reach because of budget cuts.
The mayor's office said that with more programs on the chopping block, the money for the games might be better spent.
In the past, Jacksonville has spent more than $200,000 to entertain guest in the skybox, which included drinks and food. More recently, the city has cut that cost down to $42,000 by just paying for the game tickets and having guests purchase their own food and drinks.
However, even just the cost of the tickets might be too much for the budget. The city might turn the suites back over to the Jaguars to rent to private businesses.
The rent for a suite is currently $95,000 to $135,000 a year at the stadium and $50,000 to $65,000 a year at the arena. At both venues there are vacant suites available.
"Going into this budget year everything is going to be on the table. We are going to be looking at a number of items and expenses that are currently paid for by the city and this is one of the top items we are going to look at," Skipper said.
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