JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville City Council met for the first time Thursday to discuss making upgrades to the scoreboards at EverBank Field and using $43 million in city bed tax money on the project.
Council members had several questions for Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who would spend $20 million of his own money on the upgrades. It appears that most of the members are in favor of the project.
"A world-class kind of attraction, it will draw economic power to Jacksonville," Khan said at the meeting.
The city spent millions on the scoreboard in 2005 to make upgrades for Super Bowl XXXIX.
Now, the Jaguars want to city to spend $63 million more on state-of-the-art video scoreboards, which would make them the largest at any football stadium in the world.
The boards will be 52 feet high and 348 feet wide. City Council member Richard Clark believes the changes are essential.
"If you go there and see the board and go to other stadiums and see what they look like; (you can see) how revenue is generated, and it's not just the Jaguars," Clark said. "It's the Gator Bowl and any other event that we hold there. You are going to have to modernize if you are going to stay competitive in other marketplaces."
The council decided to take the measure up again at special meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, when they'll get details from an auditor about exactly how the money will be spent.
Mayor Alvin Brown said the money will come from existing revenue and will have no affect on the city's budget. The money would come from a 2 percent charge on hotel guests that has been set aside for the stadium.
Council members did have questions concerning the water feature that's part of the scoreboard project. It will not be a swimming pool, but more of a fountain for aesthetic reasons.
Jaguar's President Mark Lamping (pictured, above, with Khan) said the project is an investment in the team and the city.
"It's the investment that can make the biggest difference right away," Lamping said. "And that is why we really believe taking EverBank Field to the lead in the National Football League on all stadiums in the country will finally give us something where we are the best. It will be a distinctive part of this facility that not only benefit the fans, but it's something people want to see and it will become a destination."
The renovation would include new scoreboards in each end zone, a new scoreboard control room and a new platform in the north end zone where fans can buy food and drinks.
Fans say anything that would help improve the team and draw people to Jaguars games is worth money.
"If we can get our Jags going again, that's a good draw," said fan Vicki Miller.
If the council approves the funding, construction would begin in January and finish in July to make sure it is ready for next football season.
Council members at Thursday's meeting did want to hear about from Khan himself that the team is going to stay in Jacksonville and not move to London.
"I've been very clear from the day that I came here we're doing everything we can to make the team fit in Jacksonville," Khan said. "I said that over and over again. Deeds not words are what's here. So look at actions. They speak a lot louder than words."
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