No plans filed yet for approved amphitheater, EverBank Field upgrades

Construction could begin as early as January

The latest plans come more than two years after the two sides agreed on improvements that featured the worlds largest scoreboards among other perks.
The latest plans come more than two years after the two sides agreed on improvements that featured the worlds largest scoreboards among other perks.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A  multimillion-dollar amphitheater and stadium improvement project approved Tuesday night by the City Council is expected to begin in less than a month. But so far, no plans are in place for the construction.

The Jacksonville City Council voted 19-0 Tuesday to fund its portion of the EverBank Field project with bed tax money.

The three-pronged project includes a new amphitheater next to EverBank Field and a covered practice field, as well as renovations of the stadium's club seats.

The bill for the construction will be split between the city and Jaguars owner Shad Khan with a combined investment of $90 million.

Renderings of the project were released last month, but the Jaguars' front office said Wednesday that new renderings will be released soon, likely next week.

After the unanimous vote Tuesday, many council members said they see the upgrades as a good deal for the city because the Jaguars are taking most of the risk.

“I think the good thing is we've got protection on cost overruns,” Councilman Bill Gulliford said. “That is something we feel a little more comfortable with because of that.”

The head of Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, though, expressed concern about the source of the funding from the city.

“It's not unexpected. I assumed the result would either be 19-0 or 18-1, and in either case, that's by far the best victory the Jaguars have had by a margin this season,” John Winkler said.

Officials said the goal for the project is to help bring more events and people to downtown, to improve the quality of life in Jacksonvill and to improve the experience around Jaguars game weekends and other events at EverBank Field.

The creation of a new 5,000-fixed-seat amphitheater and a multipurpose covered field will attract more concerts, shows and events to Jacksonville, officials said. The facility can also be used as part of events taking place inside EverBank Field.

Construction is expected to begin after the Taxslayer Bowl, starting with the club seats. About 3,000 club seats will be removed -- 1,500 on each side -- and replaced with a luxury cabana-type setting. The amphitheater and practice field are expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2016 football season.

“We have worked diligently over the years to improve EverBank Field, in every respect, to make it one of the best stadiums in the NFL for the Jaguars and our fans, and to enhance the entire Sports Complex so we are an undisputed destination for world-class sports and entertainment events,” Khan said in a news release. “Today’s news is a major step forward in our continuing effort to establish Jacksonville as the best of the best.”

The project will be completed as a design-build project, with the contractor working as both the architect and builder.

“This is the private sector taking the lead,” Gulliford said. “Private sector doesn't do the things the city does. Design-build construction is a lot of times fast-tracked. I've seen design-build (projects) where they didn't even finish the plans until maybe a third of the way into construction.”

Councilman Matt Schellenberg said he is sure the construction plans are in the works but not by the city.

“What is going to happen is they are already designing it, hoping that the city would pass it last night at the City Council meeting,” Schellenberg said. “I think they're going to be full speed ahead going forward from this point on, and I think we're going to be able to get some of that information as we proceed.”

It's unclear how the EverBank Field improvements will affect the Shipyards project, in which Khan is heavily invested. His initial plan for the area included a call for practice fields and other developments on that site. Those plans will most likely change, but Khan is reportedly still interested in developing the property.

“If you look at the proximity of the Shipyards to this whole thing, is there sort of a monument being built to someone?” Gulliford asked. “To the sense that the total development of that area could be a significant coup for Mr. Khan.”

The Downtown Investment Authority said Wednesday that it has been in contact with the Jaguars about what the changes might be to the initial Shipyards proposal, but they have not submitted changes yet.

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