JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Public support for the proposed stadium renovation is mixed according to a new poll released by the University of North Florida Monday, with support seeming to ebb and flow depending on the way the question is asked.
Jacksonville residents when asked whether they supported the city spending $1 billion on stadium renovations or pursue a lesser investment, 51% said they’d prefer the Jags purchase the stadium and pay to renovate it themselves.
Just 6% who said they support the city forking up the $1 billion and split the cost 50/50 with the team.
Jaguars President Mark Lamping dismissed the stadium buyout option Monday afternoon.
“It would put the Jaguars in an economic position that would not be in the best interest of the franchise, the city or our fans,” said Lamping.
But when asked whether they’d be willing to spend the billion if the alternative meant losing the team, 46 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay the price, compared to 47 percent who said they’d rather lose the team.
“The excitement around the Jags and this season coming off the playoff win last year is astronomical. So, if anything was geared up for a yes, you know, that would have been it. And the fact that they couldn’t get the level of support, it gives you pause,” said UNF political science professor Dr. Michael Binder, who conducted the poll.
Binder said the biggest surprise takeaway for him, was 45 percent of respondents saying community and economic investment in underserved areas is the thing they want to see most in a stadium deal.
“The fact that the Jags may or may not be gone for extended periods of time during reconstruction, public investment levels, none of those were nearly as important as investing in the underserved communities around the stadium. That was very surprising to me,” said Binder.
Speaking to the Rotary Club Monday Mayor Donna Deegan also indicated community investment is a big part of what she wants to see out of a deal.
“And my commitment is that that deal will include as many good things for the City of Jacksonville overall as it does to economically boost that area right at the stadium,” said Deegan.
Ultimately, Binder said the poll gives both sides some leverage, and the devil will rest in the details of the deal.
“I think there is definitely cover to negotiate down that number, but there’s also in some ways a little bit of a mandate to make sure that the city gets invested in a way that will help the community,” said Binder.
Negotiation teams from the city and team just met for the first time last week.
Based on what Lamping and city officials have said about that meeting, it was introductory in nature and there’s obviously a long way to go before a deal is finalized.
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