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Council members question city’s $150 million for community development in stadium deal

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The proposed $1.7 billion stadium and community development deal is generating some initial heartburn among some members of Jacksonville City Council.

One of the main issues: the city’s $150 million share of the community development piece.

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Between maintenance on the existing stadium, the renovation, and community development, the City of Jacksonville would be on the hook for a combined $925 million under the proposed “Stadium of the Future” deal.

The community development piece would total $300 million, which would be split 50/50 between the city and the team for parks, workforce, housing, and homelessness programs.

But out of the gate, it has some council members like Rory Diamond (R-District 13) throwing the challenge flag.

“We’ve got to make this a responsible deal, and right now, it’s not. It’s got $150 million of useless spending that we have to take out,” Diamond said.

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Even Council President Ron Salem (R-Group 2 At-Large) expressed reservations about spending such a large chunk of change on initiatives that are arguably unrelated to the stadium itself, especially when the city is already planning to make a historic $775 million investment in EverBank Stadium.

“My personal feeling is much of that should be included in the budget versus going through this process,” Salem said.

Mayor Donna Deegan defended the inclusion of the community development piece, arguing the Bold City needs to take bold steps to kickstart the development of downtown.

“Whether it’s the physical infrastructure of the bulkheads, whether it is developing programs for workforce development, all those things are critical to making downtown go,” Deegan said.

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If the council were to punt on the city’s share of the community development piece, President Salem noted the Jags would still invest $100 million in those types of initiatives.

“I’d love to find ways to get their other $50 [million], and that’ll be kind of how we can finesse that possibly through amendments and that kind of thing,” Salem said.

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