Who should pay for the Jaguars’ stadium renovations and how much?

Taxpayer watchdog group looks at return on investment

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sounding off on an upgraded stadium, Jaguars fans have mixed reactions to the high-price plans. A taxpayer watchdog group is also keeping an eye on the massive investment.

The Jaguars organization wants a 50% investment from the city of Jacksonville, promising it will benefit the surrounding area and the city.

MORE: ‘Stadium of the Future’: Jaguars reveal renovation plans in online presentation

The video renderings from the Jaguars, released Wednesday, show the ideal plans for the stadium of the future. It’s hard to argue it’s not awesome. However, how to pay for this is debatable.

Estimates for the upgrades right now are around $1.4 billion dollars. The option of building a new stadium would be closer to $2 billion. And Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who is among the richest people in the world, is asking the city of Jacksonville to pay half that.

Gallery: ‘Stadium of the Future’ renderings

“I think now is our time,” said Jaguars president Mark Lamping, the frontman for the team’s negations. “The city is exploding, the Jaguars are ascending. We’re going to do everything we can to seize the opportunity.”

Lamping said the team wants the upgrades to be as painless as possible and it’ll be good for the city. However, some News4JAX viewers are skeptical.

“Beautiful stadium but being located in the heart of the homeless population of Jacksonville makes the price tag hard to swallow. I could see the taxpayers chipping in for 20% but not 50% as the city gets very little benefit, and Khan makes all the profit,” one News4JAX reader wrote.

“Jacksonville residents need city water and sewer that was promised 50 yrs ago too. No funding for that, but here’s a billion for a game,” Polpetta Ron commented.

Others asked if surrounding counties and cities could chip in because they too see a benefit from the team.

Well, I think the surrounding communities, which are kind of direct beneficiaries makes a lot of sense,” said Dominic M. Calabro, the CEO of Florida Tax Watch. “I think you have a bit of a questionable if not dangerous route for the state of Florida, because we’ve got stadiums all over and we’ll have a whole lot more when you spend the OPM, other people’s money.”

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Florida Tax Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that looks out for taxpayers’ best interests. He says both sides, the Jags and the city, will have to budge a little to come to an agreement.

“I remember when the Jaguars first came, and I talked to some of the leading leaders of the community back then,” he added. “And they were really surprised at just how incredible the community came around and supported it, and how much it was a valuable asset to the community. I still think that’s true. The question is, how do you finance it in a thoughtful way that’s fair, delivers the results over an appropriate period of time?”

News4JAX looked at other major stadium projects for comparison. In Atlanta, the Falcons owner used $200 million in state hotel tax money toward the new $1.6 billion stadium.

The Buffalo Bills are building a $1.54 billion stadium with New York state paying $600 million and the county is paying $250 million. The new LA Rams stadium cost more than $5 billion to build, with the project privately funded by the owner.

“Like any other investment, you got to think of it in terms of well, as if you’re a bank or financial institution, would you lend us money?” Calabro tabled. “And is there a plan of action that will deliver, meet or exceed the expected return on investment for the community over the next 30 years?”

Of course, these plans are far from final: there are still a lot of meetings and negotiations to take place before anything is set in stone.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.