JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Urban Meyer has spoken freely about making Jacksonville a destination.
Usually, it’s been in vague terms ever since he was hired earlier this year.
On Thursday, the Jaguars laid out a plan to match Meyer’s vision of a state-of-the-art practice and training facility as part of a massive reshaping of Downtown Jacksonville. Owner Shad Khan’s plans will include a Four Seasons hotel, a marina and a six-floor office building. The practice facility, however, is a vision of Meyer’s playing out.
It’s also a key to one other very important aspect of the Jaguars’ makeover. Winning and remaking the Jaguars is the goal, but Meyer wants players to have the best of the best tools to help them get there.
The practice facility — price tag, $120 million — is key to the next major step in Jacksonville’s future. Team president Mark Lamping said that the practice facility would need to be complete before any major renovations to TIAA Bank Field could commence. The ideal completion date for the practice facility is 2023.
The 125,000 square-foot standalone base will house everything that the Jaguars need to take the next step. It will have two outdoor practice fields and an indoor practice field. The cost will be split 50-50 with the city. Having the best practice and sports performance facility in the NFL is extremely important to Meyer.
“The most valuable commodity of any organization of the players and how you invest back in the players. And that’s always been — for the last 30 years, I’ve always believed in that,” Meyer said. “I work people hard, bring out the greatness in them, but also treat them like gold, treat them right, the way they’re — really, they’ve earned that right as an NFL player, I think they’ve earned that right as a college football player, I think you’ve earned that right as a volleyball player. You’ve earned that right to get the very best treatment, the very best training that’s possible.”
This vision was a big reason why Meyer took the Jaguars job. Well, that and a lot of salary cap space and the ability to draft a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence.
But a standalone training facility is something that Meyer has alluded to on numerous occasions dating back to when he was first hired.
“The training center was something that I believe a professional athlete should not have to go to Phoenix, Arizona, Dallas, Texas and train and pay a significant amount of money to, in my opinion at times, get subpar training,” Meyer said.
“I believe if we create the best environment in the National Football League, which is our intent, my vision, our dream is to have our players, live and be part of this community, to train here and be part of Jacksonville. Are you kidding me? This is as beautiful place as there is in America.”
One other very notable takeaways from Thursday’s announcement: Stadium upgrades, yes. New stadium, no.
During the 2019 State of the Franchise luncheon, Lamping and owner Shad Khan talked about the need for a significant makeover at TIAA Bank Field. The extent of those renovations and if it was even feasible to do so, was the focus of a study by the team and the Haskell Corporation. Lamping said on Thursday that the first phase of the study provided excellent results.
“We have the ability to renovate the existing stadium. There’s nothing fatal with the structure that would keep us from being able to renovate, as opposed to a new build, and that’s great news,” he said.
“That is really good news. And the reason it’s good news is because it means you can probably protect the lower bowl as part of any renovation. And the estimates that have been provided that probably saves $500 to $600 million dollars compared to new construction, so significant, in terms of what that brings.”