LONDON – The time is drawing near.
When it comes to making the long-anticipated Lot J project a reality, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan said that remains true.
Khan on Saturday reiterated that the project – which is designed to continue revamping and reenergizing downtown Jacksonville around TIAA Bank Field – remains a major objective, and said he expects to break ground on it by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
“This has been like a 50-year objective in Jacksonville to do something downtown,” Khan said Saturday morning at the Dorchester Hotel in London. “We are as anxious as anyone to break this curse and get something going.”
Khan on Saturday discussed multiple off-field Jaguars topics in advance of Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans at Wembley Stadium, a game that will mark the seventh consecutive season the Jaguars have hosted a game at the historic stadium.
Khan said the London game remains key for the Jaguars, and he and President Mark Lamping said Saturday the team hopes to extend the team’s contract with the NFL to play a home game in London annually. The current contract runs through 2020.
“I think we definitely want to extend,” Khan said. “It’s worked great for us and frankly, I can’t imagine not having it – the value that it has added for Jacksonville. We’re talking to the league and I’m very optimistic we’re going to have an extension.”
Khan was asked if the plan would remain to have one home game played in London.
“I think that’s our plan right now, but obviously subject to change,” he said. “We’re going to see how this year turns out, and what the right thing to do is for the franchise.”
Lamping added that 2020 remains a key year for the franchise in terms of local revenue. The Jaguars long have moved to get out of the bottom quarter of the NFL in that category, and Lamping on Saturday noted that three teams currently also in the bottom quartile in those rankings – the Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders – are scheduled to move into new stadiums in 2020.
“So, not only protecting those things that have been implemented, but also creating new opportunities like Lot J … 2020 is a critical year for us,” Lamping said.
Khan also discussed the continuing trend of holding megaevents at TIAA Bank Field. The Rolling Stones played there in July, and Green Day is expected to play there as part of The Hella Mega Tour in 2020.
"What’s driven this for us is we want to give the community a different experience,” Khan said. “Obviously football … there is a limited demand for it. That’s why we’re playing the games here in London -- that the community can't support selling out eight games, so maybe there's something else we can do there for the hot-dog vendors, the hotel rooms, all the stakeholders who make a living off the game."
“If we are playing a game away, we want to have one mega-experience. That kind of makes up for that from our viewpoint. If we’re playing more than one, we would want to have a couple or more.”
Khan also discussed the importance of adding what he calls “a better hotel experience” in Jacksonville. He said a high-end hotel remains a major objective on the St. John’s River once the elevated Hart Bridge ramps are demolished, which also is expected to occur in 2020.
“I get that all the time from executives who come in and leave town,” Khan said. “We want to get a higher hotel than what we have. That’s what we’re targeting on the river once the overpass comes in. That’s going to define the city, and what a difference that would make – to have people come in and now stay in the city.
“Right now, the decision-makers, the influencers, want to come to Jacksonville and get the hell out of there. It’s bad for the image. It is bad for business.”