On Friday, Jacksonville Jaguars president Mark Lamping pushed back against earlier reports that the team would consider leaving North Florida if it did not secure taxpayer funding to redevelop its home stadium.
Lamping told NBC affiliate station News4JAX that the team wasn’t issuing an ultimatum to the city if it doesn’t get the desired $1 billion in subsidies to renovate EverBank Stadium:
“That’s obviously taken totally out of context,” Lamping told News4JAX. “What will happen, and it’s been very consistent, dating back to 2016, we can’t extend our lease unless we find a stadium solution. That is so important. You’ve heard me say that many, many times dating back to 2016. And try to turn that into a statement that here’s this ultimatum, it just isn’t true.”
On Thursday during the AXS DRIVE Conference in St. Louis, Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal asked Lamping a hypothetical question about the Jaguars’ plans to renovate EverBank, to which Lamping answered, “If there’s a referendum, the ballot question should be: Do you want to keep the NFL in Jacksonville?” Lamping went on further to explain how the city would not get another NFL team if the Jaguars (hypothetically) left without a resolution on the redevelopment of their home field.
Those comments may have added another reason for Jags fans to be defensive about their team after years of relocation rumors.
Although Jacksonville proper is a massive city – land wise, it’s three times the size of all five boroughs in New York City combined despite having one-eighth of the population – it’s the fourth-smallest NFL market, with only New Orleans, Buffalo and Green Bay trailing it. While media market sizes are less of a predictor of popularity in the NFL, the Jags routinely struggle to capture national attention. Despite the city’s passion for its team and history in the sport, Jacksonville’s turn as Super Bowl host in 2005 inspired little confidence within league circles to return for a second title game.
EverBank Stadium is rather unique within the league, as it was built with some of the remnants of the former Gator Bowl Stadium. The Gator Bowl was mostly demolished in 1994 to make room for a newer facility when the league awarded Jacksonville with its 30th franchise. Lacking the more modern amenities that many of the newer stadiums around the NFL have, EverBank appears to be outdated despite making it to 30 seasons.
Shad Khan, who purchased the franchise from Wayne Weaver in 2011, invested in some upgrades in time for the 2014 season, but he has also volunteered the team to play at least one game in London for the last decade. In fact, the Jaguars will play two games in Britain’s capital in 2023, the first NFL team to ever play two straight games in the city during the season.