Panel approves Jaguars Stadium bill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Jaguars are getting initial support from state legislators to help pay for improvements to EverBank Field.

A Florida Senate panel on Monday unanimously approved a measure (SB 922) that would guarantee $2 million a year for the next 30 years to help pay for stadium upgrades.

The bill still has two more stops before it reaches the full Senate.

Jacksonville is already receiving $2 million a year in state money. But Jacksonville area leaders say the extra help is needed to help the area keep high-profile events such as the annual clash between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia.

State Sen. Audrey Gibson co-sponsored the bill.

"There has been an increase in revenue so it's really just a rebate of revenue that will help us make some improvements and much needed repairs, I understand to the stadium for public enjoyment," Gibson told Channel 4's Hailey Winslow over the phone Monday night. "A stadium, after it's so old, like any building, there are maintenance requirements particularly when it's being highly used."

People Channel 4 spoke with about the money Monday night had mixed thoughts.

"I personally think they could've done something wiser with the money but if that's what they chose to do, if it'll make them play better, then hey," said one local fan.

"I think the state putting money into the professional football league is very beneficial for our state and our economy because all three teams, together they put in so much money and revenue for the state and so I think giving back to them for repairs and stuff like that is very beneficial to enhancing the economy more," said another fan.

Gibson said the improvements are necessary for not only Jaguars games but big events like Monster Jam and the Florida/Georgia game.

"Of course we want to make sure the venue is one that is safe and enjoyable for families that are from Jacksonville and guests who spend money to come to Jacksonville," said Gibson.

State legislators are considering several bills to help professional sports this year, including measures to use state money for Sun Life Stadium and Daytona International Speedway.

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