Florida-Georgia seating capacity cut by nearly 6,000

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Seating capacity at the Florida-Georgia football game will be reduced by 5,600 this year as part of an agreement between the schools and the city of Jacksonville.

Brian Hughes, chief administrative officer for the city, said the University of Florida and University of Georgia have the flexibility to remove temporary seating from the game as part of the contract.

STORY: Jaguars DL Dawaune Smoot unexpectedly delivers his baby girl in his Jacksonville home

Temporary seating will not be installed by the north end zone, however, temporary seats will be installed by the south end zone as well as the east and west clubs.

As a result, the city will pay $400,000 to each school.

Councilmember Ron Salem, who chairs the finance committee, said the money already is budgeted. The city would normally have to pay to install the temporary seats.

“Both schools in conjunction with the city of Jacksonville have determined not to add temporary seats in the north end zone and utilize the area for premium seating,” said Chip Howard, executive associate athletics director for internal affairs for the University of Florida. “Adding those additional temporary seats in the past has stressed concessions, restrooms and gate entrances. By removing those temporary seats, we are able to improve the fan experience in that area.”

Instead, there will be 800 premium seats in the north end zone.

Action News Jax reached out to the University of Georgia for comment but has not received a response yet.

According to the contract with the schools, the city is obligated to provide temporary seating for a capacity of 82,917.

Hughes said this year’s capacity will be just more than 76,000.

Under the contract, the city will pay each school up to $1.5 million if they extend the agreement through 2025.

“There are payments made to the teams really to draw them here,” Kristi Sweeney, an associate professor of sport management at the University of North Florida, said. “Both of these schools can put almost 90,000 fans inside their stadium. That’s guaranteed ticket revenue.”

She said the payments, including the $800,000 for reduced capacity this year, is to incentivize the schools to hold the rivalry in Jacksonville.

“The idea is — is there enough value there to justify putting on an event like this?” Sweeney said. Action News Jax’s Robert Grant asked if there is. “I think from an emotional connection for a lot of people in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, there is justification,” she said.

The game brings a boost to downtown businesses. Bold City Brewery Taproom Manager Will Frazier said it is perhaps the biggest day of the year for them.

“It’s a big, big deal for us. Just the amount of business that we bring in — people traveling through and stopping by. There’s a lot of beer sales that day.”

The city is in its first year of the five-year contract. It will continue until 2025 if the schools opt in to the one-year extension in 2024 and 2025.

STORY: INVESTIGATES: “It’s literally just piles of garbage,” Neighbors push for cleanup in junk-filled home

The finance committee unanimously approved the agreement Tuesday. It will go to the city council Oct. 26 as emergency legislation.

The Florida-Georgia game is Oct. 30.