Where do Jacksonville mayoral candidates stand on Jaguars stadium renovations? Here’s what they said

File Photo of TIAA Bank Field

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the key issues for voters in the upcoming race to become Jacksonville’s next mayor hinges on the future of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the team’s stadium on the banks of the St. Johns River.

Jaguars executives have said TIAA Bank Field is in desperate need of a renovation to keep up with the standards set by other teams making big investments in stadiums across the NFL.

Last month, the Jaguars said it has selected global design firm HOK as its consultant for the project, which could include a shade roof and reduced seating, among other upgrades. To keep the team in Jacksonville long term, it is believed that significant improvements to TIAA Bank Field need to happen. The current lease agreement between the Jaguars and the city for the stadium expires in 2030. And 75% of NFL owners (24 of 32) need to approve the renovation plans before any lease agreement occurs.

While the Jaguars didn’t discuss a potential price tag, some have estimated it could cost could be between $600 million and $1 billion.

Back in November 2013, Jacksonville’s City Council approved $63 million in improvements to then-EverBank Field, toward which Jaguars owner Shah Khan would contribute $20 million. Renovations included two 362-foot-long video boards that were the largest of their kind in the world, a platform area in the north end zone with two pools.

RELATED: Stadium renovation plans ‘starting to come together,’ Jaguars president says

The main question voters want to know now is, who will pay for the changes this time? And how much?

It is expected that the next mayor of Jacksonville will have a lot of say in negotiating a deal that is expected to use a mix of taxpayer and team money to fund the changes.

MORE: Shade, better Wi-Fi, full roof? Jaguars reaching out to fans on upgraded stadium choices

With that in mind, News4JAX host of This Week In Jacksonville Kent Justice asked six of the eight candidates running for mayor what they plan to do about the issue if elected.

Below are their responses, which have been slightly edited for clarity:

Omega Allen, no party affiliation

Well, you know, it’s hard to say on this side how you can do that, but I do know that the very first thing I would have to do is get all of the details. Looking at the details, then I have to determine what’s the ROI, what’s the return on investment for the people of Jacksonville. How is it going to benefit our economy in that part of our economy that’s actually going to trickle down to the households in Jacksonville? Keeping the NFL, of course I would want to keep the NFL, but do you keep the NFL at all costs when we have so many issues? We have homelessness. How can we take some of the dollars making sure that Jacksonville is going to get its fair share of the funds that need to come back to us for our investment so that we can take those dollars and invest them in areas that benefit the citizens of Jacksonville?”

LeAnna Cumber, Republican

“Look, what the city needs to do, what we need to do, and what I will fully commit to do and make sure, as in part of protecting the taxpayers, we need to have the very best negotiators, the very best lawyers, ones who are used to negotiating with NFL teams, are used to putting together these deals that other cities have put together, and that’s something that we haven’t done in the past, but we really need to do is make sure that we have the absolute best at the table who know how to do it and who have a history and a track record of working with NFL teams to make sure, again, that it works for everybody. And at the end of the day, the city and the taxpayers are really watched out for.”

Daniel Davis, Republican

“Well, listen, we all love the Jags. We just got through this fantastic season. And I think we have the right mix of coach and quarterback, and I will tell you this: I love the Jags. I always have I want them to be in Jacksonville. But whenever we do negotiate on that new stadium or whatever that’s going to look like, I’m standing up to the table to be the negotiator for the citizens of Jacksonville. Nobody else. So the citizens of Jacksonville need to understand that when I step up to negotiate it’s going to be on their behalf and it’s going to be a fair deal. And everybody’s going to have skin in the game, and it’s going to be a very transparent deal.”

Donna Deegan, Democrat

“I think I know how melody feels about this issue having read that question. 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 endzone 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.”

Al Ferraro, Republican

“So as the mayor, I’m the only one who has said no to the Jaguars with the Lot J when that came through. I couldn’t go in front of the community and say, look, this is great for the community, we’re spending taxpayer dollars, and this is what we’re getting on a rate of return. I felt uncomfortable with it. I didn’t support it. So as a mayor, as new things come up, I’m going to be looking out for the taxpayer. I want to look out for the businesses that come here. But you can’t have it to where you’re just giving away taxpayer dollars without explaining what it is and having a return on investment. So I want to make sure that the taxpayers are looked at. We have lobbyists that are always looking out for different businesses and organizations that come in, but nobody is really looking out for the taxpayer. And that’s what I’ll be doing.”

Audrey Gibson, Democrat

“Any investment of city funds must include short term and long term return on investment and a long term contract for the team to remain in Jacksonville well beyond 2029. This would also include no diminishment in “home” games being played locally. Community investment is important as well. We have taxpayers who can’t even afford to go to a game.”

Brian Griffin, write-in candidate

“I feel that we don’t want to just spend a spend. I mean, the Jacksonville Jaguars are very important to our city. It brings money into the city. We do need to keep it keep them here. But I’m not for spend, spend, spend. I feel like you should fix the problems that are there. Like they’re talking about the renovation of the stadium right now. And a lot of times when you hear that it means they just want to fix everything. It’s, like, go in and fix the problems that need to be fixed and then as problems arise, fix those so you don’t have to renovate the whole stadium all at once, I don’t feel...I’d like to look at it myself first, if need be, you know, hire a negotiator. But, I mean, most things are pretty obvious. You know, if you walk through a place you can kind of tell what needs to be done and what doesn’t need to be done. So I think negotiator is possible, but I think it might be something we could do on our own. Plus a negotiator is going to cost more money for the city.”

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Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.