Mayor Curry backs out of Christmas tree lighting ceremony amid vulgar Lot J protest

The vote on the controversial entertainment complex at the stadium, Lot J, has now been pushed back until after the first of the year.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The controversial Lot J project is still taking center stage even though the Jacksonville City Council has decided to not vote on the project until next month.

The project led to protests at City Hall and those protests caused Mayor Lenny Curry to back out of a traditional Christmas tree lighting at James Weldon Johnson Park.

Curry and his family were scheduled to show up at the event on Tuesday night but police suggested they stay away because of the protesters who were at the park upset with Lot J and shouting obscenities.

Protesters shouted outside City Hall to City Council members, Curry and others, upset that the city is even considering spending over $233 million on the entertainment complex.

“He wants us to stimulate our economy but there’s no economy to stimulate if nobody has money to go to the stadium to spend. We feel that the whole plan just has a big gap in that he hasn’t quite figured out,” said protester Halie DeLaCruz.

What some felt was inappropriate were signs naming the mayor’s children and vulgar language used during the protest and that is why the mayor’s staff said Curry did not attend the lighting.

Inside, City Council was meeting and it was expected the council would take up the Lot J issue and possibly take a vote on the matter. But at a special meeting earlier in the day that included council members, the mayor’s staff, and members of the Jacksonville Jaguars, we learned the Jaguars have agreed to delay the vote until Jan. 7.

“We are long term players here,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping. “We were hoping that it would’ve been resolved this evening. This is not a process where we wanted to have winners and losers. We wanted to be a win-win.”

During that meeting, Lamping referred to the Jaguars as a free agent team, saying Jagaurs owner Shad Khan has many opportunities to move the team but stayed in Jacksonville.

While he did not say the team would leave if Lot J was not built, he and his staff made it clear again that the project would show the city’s commitment to the team and NFL.

Council members asked Lamping about other concerns, stadium renovations and the lease agreement for the Jaguars.

That is not part of the Lot J deal but Lamping did say in 2023 the team will come back with more information about upgrades and what they would like to see happen at the stadium.

The lack of action by City Council tonight was seen by many observers as a good step. It will allow the council to get more answers to questions about the project.

Earlier this week there were over 40 concerns, now the City Council auditor says there are seven areas of concern that they hope to work out before a final vote. And while City Council is going on a holiday break, they might hold another special meeting this week to take up questions.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.