JACKSONVILLE – Shad Khan addressed the state of the franchise, and did so in a big way.
A really big way.
Khan, the Jaguars' owner, actually did much more than that during the team's 2015 State of the Franchise event on Tuesday. He presented a sweeping, state-of-the-art vision for the city and he unveiled plans to develop the Shipyards riverfront property in downtown Jacksonville.
"It's a game-changer – no question about it," Khan said.
The one-hour, six-minute presentation in the soon-to-be-named West US Assure Club at EverBank Field featured comments from Jaguars President Mark Lamping, Khan and others. As notable, it featured a proposal that – if realized – will bring to reality Khan's long-stated vision of revitalizing the Shipyards property.
The Shipyards property, which covers 48 acres of city-owned property on the north bank of the St. Johns River, long has been underdeveloped, with Khan on Tuesday referring to the area as a "boulevard of broken dreams."
The plans – the renderings for which can be found on jaguars.com – presented Tuesday would change that, and Khan said would serve the multiple purpose of strengthening the Jaguars, the city and the community.
"What's great for downtown Jacksonville is wonderful for the Jaguars," he said.
Khan's vision is to create a "modern, urban, walkable" destination, connecting the Sports Complex – which includes EverBank Field – with downtown Jacksonville. It may, be based on what the market can support, include residential, office, retail, restaurants and hotel options.
"A piece at a time really doesn't work," Khan said. "You have to have a big vision."
Khan was asked if the Jaguars saw this as a money-making opportunity.
"We see this as a franchise-stabilizing opportunity," he said.
Khan said while the Shipyards and downtown Jacksonville currently don't "present the city at its best," the proposed Shipyards project would make the area an iconic entryway to the city.
"I have felt from the first day I got here that there's a huge amount of potential here that's unrealized – and there are a lot of reasons why it hasn't been realized," Khan said. "But iconic development can change a community. … This has to be thought out, how it connects to the city, the past to the future, how it connects to the Jaguars … but most importantly, how it affects Jacksonville."
Images from the Jaguars State of the Franchise press conference held at EverBank Field.
The initial design presented Tuesday was developed by Kansas City-based Populous, which provided "initial conceptual design support" for Iguana Investments, a development entity created by Khan for the Shipyards project.
Khan emphasized that the project is very much a public-private partnership, with Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown fully supporting the proposal moments after the presentation.
"It's the first time I've seen it," Brown said. "It's a great vision for the city. He always said we want to make downtown a destination and a top priority. I'm very excited about his vision. It's visionary and it's iconic and will put Jacksonville on the map in a very significant way…
"I think it's going to be successful for a number of reasons. One, you have a great visionary leader in Shad Khan. As a mayor, it's my top priority; I believe in downtown and there's a drive to make sure we have the best downtown and I think that's what's going to happen."
Added Brown, "I'm committed to his vision 1,000 percent. It's the right thing to do."
Khan, who took over as owner in January 2012, didn't discuss specific numbers, but he said he will have personal money invested in the Shipyards project as he did in video boards upgrades, spas, locker-room upgrades and training room upgrades completed at EverBank in the last three years.
"We are going to spend the money if we get the okay and the right public/private partnership," he said. "I think if we get that I'm going to be committed to getting it done."
No timetable for completing or beginning the Shipyards project was provided Tuesday.
"As it moves forward, we'd like for it to move quicker," Khan said. "Obviously, sooner is better. … You've got to start moving forward and make it as soon as possible."
A key date is next Monday, when representatives from Iguana present the Shipyards proposal to the Downtown Investment Authority.
"I think it's a great proposal," Khan said. "It's very well-thought out. It's not a flash-in the pan."
Khan was asked if the presentation was an example of his continued support and commitment to the city of Jacksonville.
"I think the key point is actions speak louder than words," Khan said. "When people have asked me in the past I've said, 'Just see what we're doing.' I think talk is cheap. We've made a huge investment here and we've carried through.
"I think Jacksonville has a huge amount of potential. The Jaguars can't do well if Jacksonville doesn't do well."
The renderings for the shipyards development in downtown Jacksonville that were presented by Owner Shad Khan at the 2015 Jaguars State of the Franchise.
Also on Tuesday:
*The presentation also included an update about the financial direction of the franchise from Lamping, as well as a presentation on proposed renovations to east and west club-seat areas. The club areas are expected to be sponsored by US Assure, a national commercial insurance company and a member of the Jacksonville business community for nearly 40 years. "It's the beginning of a long-term relationship," said US Assure Chairman and CEO Ty Petway, whose father – Tom – was an original minority owner in the Jaguars and who was instrumental in bringing the franchise to Jacksonville.
*The club seat renovations depend upon state funding, with the Jaguars and the city recently applying to receive $1 million a year in the form of a sales tax rebate.. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee is expected to meet Thursday, February 19, with stadium funding expected to be discussed. A state economist ranked the Jaguars' bid for funding second behind Orlando, which bid for funds to build a new soccer stadium. "We've got a great case here," Khan said. "This is a public stadium. The sales tax rebate is coming to Jacksonville, and it has to be invested in facilities to make the stadium even greater. … That's our plan." …
*Khan also reiterated earlier statements that he hopes to extend the team's agreement to hold one game a season at Wembley Field in London. The game is a significant part of the team's local revenue stream, and Khan said in London last season and at the Super Bowl earlier this month he hopes to extend the agreement. "The London component is absolutely vital for us," Khan said. "It really supplements our efforts in making Jacksonville a more stable franchise." …
*Khan said fan support continues to grow in London, with the Jaguars growing in popularity overseas from 31st in early 2013 to anywhere from seventh to second in recent surveys. …
*Khan supported the on-field building process of General Manager Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley, each of whom is entering his third season with the organization. "We're building it the right way," Khan said. "Success will come."
*Lamping said the team again increased local revenue by 23.5 percent this past season after increasing 8.3 percent the year before. "We're nowhere where we need to be, but we're making progress," Lamping said. …