JACKSONVILLE – As Shad Khan sees it, the commitment now is clearer than ever.
Jacksonville’s leaders see it that way, too.
Khan, the Jaguars’ owner, on Wednesday afternoon was among a group of Jaguars executives and city leaders – a group that included Jaguars President Mark Lamping and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown – announcing $63 million in improvements to EverBank Field.
The enhancements are expected to be completed by the start of the 2014 preseason. They are improvements that will include two state-of-the-art end zone scoreboards, and what the team called “world-class” entertainment and viewing areas in each end zone.
The Jaguars will invest $20 million in the project, and Khan made it clear:
It’s an investment in the city, the Northeast Florida area, and in the team’s relationship with the community.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Khan said, adding that the enhancements help stabilize and strengthen the Jaguars while making the city a destination for college football and other major sports and entertainment and events.
“The headline here today is the one I shared with you in February: that the Jacksonville Jaguars will be proud, bold committed...” Khan added. “In February, those were words. Today, it’s action.”
Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown agreed.
“Today is a great example of the leadership and commitment of the Jaguars organization to Jacksonville,” Brown said, thanking Khan for his dedication and vision to Jacksonville.
Khan said the commitment also spoke volumes about Brown’s leadership and his commitment to revitalize downtown and the city’s urban core.
Khan, speaking immediately after the announcement, linked the Jaguars’ $20 million investment in the renovations with $10 million already invested since he bought the team in December 2011 in state-of-the-art locker room and training facilities.
“We have to show leadership, and really, it starts with investing and vision,” Khan said.
Lamping said 100 percent of cost overruns will be the responsibility of the Jaguars, and that any savings under the projected cost will be invested in EverBank Field.
The Jaguars will play a regular-season game in London each of the next four seasons, beginning in October, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had been quoted in the New York Post saying the league could consider asking the Jaguars to potentially play two games a season in London to help strengthen the league’s initiative there.
“Roger is absolutely a great commissioner,” Khan said. “I think he’s doing a fabulous job. I will do anything and everything to support him.”
Khan on Wednesday was asked specifically what the announcement meant in terms of the team’s commitment to the city.
“I think this is about, ‘We want to earn the fans’ support,’’’ Khan said. “We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re out there day in and day out really earning the fans’ support. I know it’s very important to win on the field. We’re investing in the team in many, many different ways.
The Jaguars last week had issued a statement from Khan regarding the city’s “Shipyards” area near EverBank Field in which Khan had said, “A new life for the Shipyards would be good news for the Jaguars, EverBank Field, the Sports Complex and all of Downtown Jacksonville.”
He discussed his interest in the area again Wednesday, saying, “That’s a process we’ve started.”
“I think it’s very, very important,” Khan said. “It’s a gateway. It’s a front door. It’s a unique downtown before you get to the Sports Complex. It should be a venue that draws people and should be a destination you want to go do. The development of that is vital.
“It’s been sitting there a long time and if somebody wants to step up, God bless them, but I think if they’re not going to do something, I think we can help.”
Khan added of the Shipyards, “It just cannot be sports. You can use the power of the Jaguars, and the NFL, to bring people, but afterward, it has to be a lot more than that. It has to be residential...This can be great driver for economic development.”