Florida-Georgia game staying in Jacksonville through at least 2023

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida-Georgia football game is staying in Jacksonville through at least 2023.

Mayor Lenny Curry made the announcement Friday morning that the game branded as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" will remain on the First Coast for years to come. 

The agreement includes an option to extend through 2025, Curry tweeted Friday morning. According to a copy of the memorandum of understanding first reported by The Athletic, the new agreement includes significantly higher financial guarantees for the schools, starting with $1 million each in 2020.

The city has put a renewed emphasis on making this event stronger for fans. This year, Jacksonville will put on the Bold City Bash the night before the Nov. 2 game. That night includes an exhibition baseball game between the Bulldogs and Gators, concerts by Chase Rice and Brent Young and a block party. 

The game has been played in the city since 1933, with the exception of two years while then-Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was being renovated to accommodate the Jaguars in 1994-95.

"The new contract will be completed in the coming weeks and will head to city council for approval," Curry said in a short video released by the city. "Thanks to both university presidents, [Kent] Fuchs and [Jere] Morehead, athletic directors Greg McGarity and Scott Stricklin and coaches and athletic organizations for both teams. 

"This is a very special rivalry and Jacksonville is proud to be home to this longstanding tradition."

The contract between the teams to play in Jacksonville was set to expire after the 2021 game at TIAA Bank Field.  

The future of the game in Jacksonville has been a hot-button topic, more so in recent years. Georgia coach Kirby Smart reignited the debate, saying last spring that he was in favor of a home-and-home setup. The downside for the Bulldogs, according to Smart, is that they lose a home game -- and a recruiting weekend in Athens -- every other year. 

The neutral site also doesn't feel so neutral for Georgia. 

Athens to Jacksonville is roughly a five-and-a-half-hour drive. Gainesville is about 70 miles from Jacksonville. 

But Randy Bishop with the Georgia Bulldog Club of Jacksonville said the extension to keep the game in the River City is "a great thing."

"The atmosphere around the game is like nothing in college football. So many people come to the stadium with no intentions of getting in. They just want to be part of the incredible vibe. It really can't be duplicated on teams home turf," Bishop said in a statement. "It's awesome that we don't have to worry about the game moving in the near future. The city has really stepped up and done what they needed to do to make this happen. As a Jacksonville resident and lifelong Dawg fan, I'm thrilled!"

The financial incentives to keep the game in Jacksonville make it worth it for the programs. The memorandum of understanding shows each school would receive $1 million apiece in 2020, in lieu of the $250,000 under the existing contract. That figure would grow to $1,250,000 beginning in 2022.

The city is set to keep its current travel stipend, which gives each school $60,000, while Georgia would receive an additional stipend of up to $350,000 for air travel.

About the Authors:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.

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