JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Major stadium upgrades or renovations at TIAA Bank Field mentioned at the Jaguars annual State of the Franchise presentation Thursday caught everyone by surprise except Jacksonville's mayor.
The stadium totally rebuilt before the Jaguars' inaugural season 25 years ago and upgraded several times since is now one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL.
Team management said its time to start talking about the future of the facility. One idea is to add a sunroof to TIAA Bank Field.
“We have to make our worst seats a lot better,” team president Mark Lamping said. "I think as part of the lease extension we are going to have to deal with what the stadium solution will be. I certainly don’t think there is any reason why the stadium couldn’t be a candidate for major renovations. We are not ready to come out with details but we do recognize this as an issue for fans."
Since the Jaguars debuted in 1995, Lamping noted that 22 teams have built new stadiums. Five others have undergone full stadium renovations. The Raiders, Rams and Chargers have new stadiums in the process of construction. The Bills and Jaguars are two that haven’t.
"We have looked at a number of concepts," Lamping said. "I think some of the concepts have been there [adding a roof]. I think we have about 10 or 11 years left on our lease here, and I think as part of the lease extension, we are going to determine what the stadium solution would be."
Lamping said discussions about a renovation of this magnitude should begin at least five years out.
"Certainly, I don’t think there is any reason why this stadium couldn’t be a candidate for a major renovation, and we really haven’t gotten into the details, but we do recognize that it is an issue for many of our fans," he said.
Mayor Lenny Curry, who attended Thursday's presentation, said he wasn't surprised that the Jaguars brought this up. They only thing they haven't discussed in a brand new stadium.
"I am not the expert on entertainment and sports stadiums, so whatever the organization thinks is going to be best for that district -- for fans and best for taxpayers," Curry said.
Team owner Shad Khan said he is sensitive to the fact it is a city-owned public stadium.
"We want to look for creative solutions -- very cost-effective," Khan said. "We want it to work."
Beyond the stadium
The race to curb the defection of people from downtown Jacksonville and make the city core a sports, business and entertainment hub is on.
Lamping, Khan and vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin discussed redevelopment project that encompasses the Shipyards, Metropolitan Park and Lot J, announced last year.
The $2.5 billion venture is finally coming out of the talking stage and they are ready to get shovels on the ground and begin the project.
Lamping said that the first phase of that project of Lot J, carries a $500 million price tag. There are four components to Lot J -- a live arena, a hotel, a more than 300-unit residential tower and an office complex.
Lamping pointed out that migration to the southeast (St. Johns Town Center, St. Johns County) is a growing concern for the future of downtown. Lamping wants to bring those bodies back to the city core.
“I think major community gathering places belong in what is the heart of the community. We think downtown is that. We hope that the population shift doesn’t become that drastic that even more and more, not only the residents, but businesses perhaps, would migrate out of downtown," he said. "Symbolically, keeping the stadium downtown, even if it isn’t the exact center of the community in terms of a spread of population, I think psychologically it is really important, and I think we would want to be downtown.”
Also announced at the state of the franchise of note:
• Gator Bowl Association president Rick Catlett and the Jaguars announced new partnership to help inject some life and financial support into the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Catlett said that the Gator Bowl will outsource a significant amount of the operations of the game to the Jaguars. That, Catlett said, will allow the bowl to generate higher payouts.
• Gross customer spending is up 13.7%, largely attributed to the success of Daily’s Place.
"Daily’s Place is growing the pie, not just slicing it up differently," Lamping said.
• The team announced a partnership with Lycamobile, a mobile virtual network operator that operates in 22 countries, according to its website. It provides lower-priced national and international calling, texts and data. The Jaguars will have a Lycamobile patch on their practice jerseys.
• The team unveiled a 25-year anniversary logo that incorporates the Jacksonville skyline into it.