Major stadium renovations, if approved, will keep the Jacksonville Jaguars from playing home games at TIAA Bank Field, and also impact the site of the annual Georgia-Florida college football game.
Jacksonville major Lenny Curry said in radio interview on Wednesday that the “best-case scenario” is renovations would be over two years and displace games from 2025-26.
University of Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin told The Athletic that he thought the time period was 2026-27 for the game called the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Regardless, the mayor’s comments put the focus on the impact to football, NFL and college, in Jacksonville and potential sites in Florida and Georgia.
“The goal would be to play somewhere in Jacksonville,” Curry said of the Jaguars’ alternatives on 1010XL/92.5 FM, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. “Those discussions are happening, but two years is the goal. … I do know that they are considering certain sites that are local that could accommodate them for at least two years.”
With TIAA Bank Field unavailable, the next-largest facility in Jacksonville is at the University of North Florida, which does not field a football team. Hodges Stadium, which is used for soccer and track and field, is listed at 9,400 with an estimated capacity as high as 12,000.
The Jaguars, who regularly play home games in London and have two scheduled for 2023, could have other options outside of Jacksonville, such as large stadiums in Orlando, Gainesville and Tallahassee, Fla.
The Georgia and Florida college programs have considered alternatives to Jacksonville as the contract has cycled through terms, including moving the games on campus.
The current contract expires after the upcoming season with the schools having the option to extend it through 2025. Jacksonville has hosted the game annually since 1933 — except for in 1994 (in Gainesville) and 1995 (Athens, Ga.) when the Gator Bowl was being renovated.
“We look forward to having conversations with the appropriate City of Jacksonville officials which will provide more information on the scope of construction, the timeline of the project, and how it would impact the future of our game vs. Florida,” University of Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said in a statement.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has been a proponent of the campus home-and-home option because of the benefits he sees in recruiting as well as a true home game. But the neutral site in Jacksonville has been lucrative for each team, with Georgia getting a $1.25 million guarantee in addition to ticket revenue for the 2023 game, a rate that goes up to $1.5 million for the next two years, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.
The schools also get incentives such as funds for travel costs and a percentage of alcohol sales in the stadium.
The rivalry game also could move to relative neutral sites in Atlanta, Orlando and Tampa while Jacksonville’s stadium is renovated.
The Jaguars have the city-owned stadium leased through the 2029 season.
“When it’s done, you will think you’re in a brand new stadium,” Curry, whose term ends in June, said during the radio interview without providing projected costs. “We’re basically renovating because the bones are good. It will be a completely different facility. It will be state of the art. It will be something that other cities look at and say ‘Wow, look at what Jacksonville just did.’”
–Field Level Media