JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At the end of a week where Mayor Lenny Curry made headlines for saying a stadium renovation could push the Jaguars out of their home for two years, team president, Mark Lamping, added some much-needed perspective to those comments.
In an interview with the Florida Times-Union, Lamping said that any time period suggested by Curry is like putting the cart before the horse.
Major renovations to TIAA Bank Field are a requirement for the team — and the NFL — in the Jaguars staying in Jacksonville. That’s been talked about for years. The team’s 35-year lease with the city expires in 2030, so there is a significant window of time to get things done. Lamping said that a renovated stadium plan is forthcoming, but talk about moving games out of Jacksonville is far too premature at this point.
“This process [before negotiations] is very close to its conclusion,” Lamping told columnist Gene Frenette. “This stadium has reached the end of its useful life. We believe that we can do a renovation in a way that it delivers almost all the benefits of a new stadium but at a significantly lower cost.”
“Our vision is the equivalent of a gut rehab of a house. I think it’s premature to talk about stadium cost. We know exactly what it’s going to cost, but we don’t know if that’s exactly what’s going to be built. We need to have some reckoning with the city. We don’t know if the city’s vision is going to be the same.”
The stadium buzz has taken off this week after term-limited Curry went on 1010XL and WOKV radio stations and said that the Jaguars could be displaced from TIAA Bank Field for two years while renovations took place.
“Best-case scenario, I expect that the renovation will take two years, two seasons. And the team will have to play somewhere else,” Curry said on 1010. “The goal would be to play somewhere in Jacksonville. Those discussions are happening. But two years is the goal.”
Curry’s office, seeking to temper the blowback from speaking out of turn, later clarified that nothing is set in stone and the time period could be subject to change from two years to one. But once Curry’s remarks were teed up, the public speculation took off and grew into a national headline.
“We need to be assured that there’s a stadium solution,” Lamping told the Times-Union. “If we’re not confident there’s going to be a stadium solution in Jacksonville, we need to make sure there’s a stadium solution someplace else. The time is upon us. We have all the confidence it will be here, but if not, we need to start figuring out where the hell it’s going to be. This stadium is not getting any younger. Kicking the can down the road is not an option.”
If the Jaguars were not playing at TIAA Bank Field, no other location in Jacksonville is currently set up to host an NFL game temporarily without significant overhauls. Places like UNF or even 121 Financial Ballpark would require exorbitant amounts of money and updating to be able to serve as an NFL team’s temporary home. NFL owners would have to approve by a three-fourths vote, according to its constitution and bylaws, any such move.
Other locations that seem more doable, but still out of the area include the University of Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Camping World Stadium is 142 miles from TIAA Bank Field. Florida’s stadium is 75 miles away.
The Taxslayer Gator Bowl, which would also theoretically be displaced in a renovation, moved to Gainesville once before when the stadium was being renovated for the Jaguars in 1994. But a one-off game where there is little local attachment to the visiting teams isn’t necessarily comparable to an NFL team that is anchored here.
What would a new-look TIAA Bank FIeld look like? Lamping told the newspaper that something similar to the Rams’ SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles is the look.
“The vision is similar to SoFi in that it is an open-air stadium on the sides, but with a permanent roof that provides weather protection and shade for the fans,” Lamping told the Times-Union.
Lamping told the Times-Union that Curry’s comments were too broad at this point because nothing has been presented, scrutinized or agreed to.
“The problem with dealing out of what Lenny said is everybody is talking about the two years and where the team is going to play, but that’s so far down the road,” said Lamping. “We got to decide if we’re going to do the stadium renovation first.”