Mayoral candidates speak out on possibility of Jaguars playing outside city during stadium renovations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A day after Mayor Lenny Curry said that a potential stadium renovation could force the Jacksonville Jaguars out of TIAA Bank Field for up to two seasons while those changes are made, both candidates weighed in on the issue.

“These are going to be tough negotiations, but the Jaguars playing out of town for two years is a non-starter for me,” Davis tweeted Thursday afternoon.

MORE: Where do Jacksonville mayoral candidates stand on Jaguars stadium renovations? Here’s what they said

“During construction, I expect our team to play in Jacksonville as they have for nearly thirty years. Terms of a deal will be decided thoughtfully and responsibly with input from all stakeholders, not at the height of a campaign,” Deegan said Thursday in a statement to News4JAX.

The next mayor of Jacksonville, whether it’s Davis or Democrat Donna Deegan, is expected to lead negotiations between the city and the Jaguars on stadium renovations and possibly a long-term lease extension.

“The Jaguars are an important source of pride for our city. I look forward to bringing in the best negotiators to assist me in crafting the terms for stadium improvements, ensuring they remain in Jacksonville for years to come,” Deegan said.

Davis has said he will negotiate the deal himself.

In an interview with 1010XL, Curry said that talks were already happening and legwork was being done on options for a short-term relocation as a stadium renovation looms.

“Best-case scenario, I expect that the renovation will take two years, two seasons. And the team will have to play somewhere else,” he said. “The goal would be to play somewhere in Jacksonville. Those discussions are happening. But two years is the goal.”

Curry’s office later clarified that nothing is set in stone and the time period could be subject to change.

His comments caught many off guard and some city leaders told News4JAX off the record that the mayor spoke out of turn.

The Jaguars rallied in the fourth quarter on Sunday to beat the Ravens 28-27 at TIAA Bank Field. Jacksonville improved to 4-7 with the win. (News4JAX)

“The goal is to play those football games in Jacksonville,” Curry said. “I know they care about that.”

The question then becomes where would the Jaguars play for those two seasons? Nothing locally has the capacity to house an NFL game. Would the NFL consider playing Jaguars games in Orlando, Gainesville, or Tallahassee?

A recent example of a stadium overhaul was the Seahawks playing at the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium in 2001-02 while their field was being constructed. Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins, was worked on over the course of three offseasons so that Miami didn’t miss any home games during a renovation that checked in at more than $700 million.

The Chargers were forced to play at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center while SoFi Stadium was being built.

News4JAX called Mayor Curry and reached out to his office. Staff said he is not going to say any more about this right now, but fans like Chris McCormick are talking. McCormick has been a season ticket holder from the start.

“I would travel for them. I go to London for them,” he said.

Others said it’s a stretch. In fact, they wouldn’t even go to Gainesville to see the team play.

“There’s hardcore Jags fan that will go out of town. Me myself. Unless I get a free ticket. I’m not gonna go out of town,” Montana Rutherford said.

Again nothing has been set in stone. But in talking to those who would be in the know, News4JAX was told the Jaguars have been holding meetings with key city leaders. Several sources said the mayor is not far off base.

The Jaguars have chosen global design firm HOK as the consultant on the project. A roof is something 81% of fans told the team they desperately wanted. Major renovations for TIAA Bank Field aren’t exactly a new topic. The stadium has undergone improvements over the years, including the addition of upgraded club seats and videoboards, adding pools, and updating the South End Zone. Flex Field and Daily’s Place were also added.

But to keep the team in Jacksonville long term — the lease agreement between the team and the city expires in 2030 — significant improvements to TIAA Bank Field need to happen. And 75% of NFL owners (24 of 32) need to approve those changes before any lease agreement occurs.

Curry also said that the renovations would also impact the annual Florida-Georgia game. Both schools would get home games before the series ideally moved back to Jacksonville.

“Maybe it’s a ‘25-26 renovation, that’d be a good goal. And then both schools would, in those two years, get their home game,” Curry said. “And then the goal is to have already negotiated a deal that they’re back in Jax at the new stadium in ‘27 and beyond.”

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.