Commentary: Jaguars learning lessons when it comes to development pitches

A rendering of the Jaguars proposed sports performance facility.
A rendering of the Jaguars proposed sports performance facility. (2021)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This one felt better.

At least, that was my feeling after hearing the Jaguars’ most recent development pitch, a plan that includes a Four Seasons Hotel and Residence, upgraded marina, an office building and an improved sports performance center.

After the failed Lot J development, one that left the Jaguars and the city at an impasse, the Jaguars brought back their next proposal. Before we see all the financial details, the story of this proposal is better.

Mark Lamping says that the biggest thing he learned from the Lot J experience was that he and Shad Khan needed to do a better job of controlling the narrative. Thursday’s presentation did do a better job of telling the story of what the Jaguars were trying to accomplish. It also answered a lot of the questions that people had about the previous Lot J development, many of which entailed the bottom line cost to the taxpayers.

Whether some of these points were not well communicated in the Lot J proposal -- or whether they didn’t exist at all -- it was clearly a point Lamping and company wanted to make with the new proposal.

From a football standpoint, I think it is interesting that the Jaguars are abandoning the flex field as a practice area for this new sports performance facility. Basically, walking away from the space is tantamount to cutting a first-round pick who was drafted by a previous general manager. They’re moving on.

They will be separating the business operations from football operations even more geographically than within the stadium. The business side is scheduled to move into two of the six floors of the proposed office building while football operations -- basically everything having to do with coaching, scouting, or players -- will be in the new performance center.

Of course, all of this is a prelude to more significant renovations of TIAA Bank Field, something that Lamping has included in every state of the franchise address since Khan purchased the team. Lamping said Thursday that estimates by ASM Global, the company that operates the stadium and other venues in town, showed around $100 million in capital requirements over the next five years and Lamping says there is a clear gap between the bed tax fund that is designed to serve as a funding source for stadium maintenance.

And that is the likely next ask. Lamping referenced the hope for a long-term lease agreement for a newly renovated stadium. He called it the stadium of the future. The good news is that the Jaguars believe they can renovate without the need to play home games elsewhere (London notwithstanding) and that the key to doing that is getting the sports performance center completed first.

The stadium of the future -- we will use the name for now -- will include more shade for fans, easier access from the ground floor to the upper decks, wider concourses, more room for football operations and improved HVAC in the building.

These sound like bullet points that would come straight from surveys of what fans say they want in order to have a more comfortable gameday experience. Good. It is a sign the Jaguars are listening.

It has become pretty clear that Jaguars fans who attend games and Duval County taxpayers have a pretty clear understanding of what they do and do not want to happen around the sports complex.

Thursday, the Jaguars spoke to more of those opinions than ever before. Now the next step is turning those shiny renderings into reality.


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