Did Minneapolis just show Jacksonville how to handle their stadium situation with the Jags?
With quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Doug Peterson leading the way, the Jacksonville Jaguars have plenty of exciting times on the field to look forward to. They are also coming up on a crucial time when it comes to their future in Jacksonville.
As many have read by now, the team is in the early stages of planning stadium renovations, which would come with a lease extension that would solidify their time in Jacksonville for the long-term future. With the city recently electing a new mayor in Donna Deegan, the negotiations will fall on her and her administration heading forward
While the details haven't been revealed and plans are not yet finalized, it's probably safe to say the renovations will come with a price tag of upwards of $1 billion. With that price tag, we here at Touchdown Jaguars have argued that the Jags should just build a new stadium -- especially if the team has to play games away from Jacksonville in the renovation period. Like many teams have done before them, they could play games in their existing stadium while a new one is built in the parking lot of their existing one. And while there will undoubtedly be some construction hurdles to cross, the organization already proven that the land next to TIAA Bank Field is fit for construction when they first proposed the idea of building Lot J.
If we compare the cost to other new stadiums at that price point, there are scaled down options to draw inspiration from, like the Buffalo Bills' future stadium ($1.4 billion). That said, this has sparked debate on what would be the wiser investment for Jacksonville. For our readers at home, the simple answer may be to use taxpayer dollars on more important things, which is a very fair point. However, when it comes to NFL organizations and lease negotiations, the question that NFL cities have to ask themselves is whether they want an NFL team or not. For those who do, the simple fact of the matter is that it will require a lot of tax payer dollars, with the hope that the investment will generate plenty of traffic and revenue that will ultimately benefit the city.
Ultimately, this will be one of the biggest decisions made in Jacksonville history, and it certainly needs to be a smart one. While the renovations the Jags are seeking would provide some much needed upgrades to TIAA Bank Field, those upgrades may not make the stadium any more alluring to event organizers looking to host revenue generating events. A strong argument could be made that the Jags need a fully enclosed indoor venue that will give the city the opportunity to lure in more events (especially NCAA championships).
This is the approach the city of Minneapolis took when they decided to build U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016, and they've already greatly benefited from it. In the seven short years since the venue has opened, they've hosted the 2019 Final Four tournament, various summer X-Games (2017-19), and Super Bowl LII. They've also held big-time concerts at the venue for legendary artists like the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift, among others.
If those marquee events weren't incentive enough, it's the venue's future that should have the attention of Jacksonville and Jaguars fans. The reason for that is because it was recently revealed that the $1.1 billion stadium is now fully paid off just eight seasons removed from its opening date.
According to Front Office Sports, this was achieved through tax revenue funds from electronic pull tabs, which far exceeded original projections. As a result, the city and Vikings have paid off the stadium 23 years ahead of time, which will save the taxpayers over $226 million in interest. At a time when NFL organizations have taken loads of taxpayer dollars out of various cities, this news may be groundbreaking, especially for the teams with expiring stadium leases like the Jags.
While we here at Touchdown Jaguars! are from from experts on the concept of pull tabs, some cursory research shows that bingo pull tabs are legal in Florida and have been since 2007. If that's the case, it's an avenue worth exploring, especially when considering the city could capitalize on having two decades in a state-of-the-art venue that's paid off. For a city and a mayor looking to build up their downtown area, that would be a huge plus financially while also giving Downtown Jacksonville the centerpiece it needs to thrive.
With the Jags' new practice facility almost complete, it shouldn't be long before they turn their attention to the stadium situation. It seems like they are leaning towards renovations, which would be a win for the city when it comes to keeping the team. However, for a marginally higher cost, a new stadium would secure the team and evolve the city at a faster pace. Its an option that warrants heavy consideration, and the answer could be somewhere between the blueprints Minneapolis and Buffalo have provided.