State of the Franchise: A visionary Shipyards proposal

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JACKSONVILLE – Shad Khan's latest Shipyards proposal is high-end, bold and visionary.

That's not surprising considering the Jaguars owner's approach to downtown Jacksonville and EverBank Field over the last five years, nor was it surprising that the latest Shipyards proposal highlighted Wednesday's 2017 State of the Franchise presentation.

Khan, the Jaguars' owner since 2012, and President Mark Lamping spoke extensively about many Jaguars-related topics during the 2017 SOTF Wednesday at EverBank. Topics included performance on the field and the continued importance of local revenue to the franchise's future.

The conclusion of the presentation:

A re-envisioned proposal to develop the Shipyards property along Jacksonville's riverfront, which Lamping called "probably the most significant project we've discussed" during the administration's time running the Jaguars.

"We know it's a project that's going to take many years to complete," Lamping said, "but we're ready to get started. If it's somebody [with a proposal] better than us, let them get started and we'll be their biggest cheerleader."

The City of Jacksonville's Downtown Investment Authority received bids from the Iguana Investments, a Khan-owned company, and two other interested parties later Wednesday afternoon, according to reports. Details of the Jaguars' proposal were discussed during the State of the Franchise, which can be seen here.

Conceptual renderings of the Jaguars' Shipyards proposal can be seen here.

"The capacity to grow in Jacksonville is almost infinite," Khan said. "We're tapping into that."

Khan said the motivation for the Shipyards proposal is simple – that "whatever is good for Jacksonville is good for the Jaguars."

"That is the connection," Khan said. "You can't have a viable city without a vibrant downtown. I think everybody gets that. That's a simple point. The five years I've been here … well, downtown is dying. We've had national media here, and I hear from them all the time: 'there isn't a Starbucks.' Somebody walked in and sort of teed off that they couldn't find a Starbucks on their way down here. Sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

"Image is what drives Jacksonville's image. This should be real change. This is going to bring Jacksonville back to life."

The Jaguars' current proposal includes a multi-use entertainment district along Bay Street, a redistribution of Metropolitan Park green space to create more pocket parks, an extension of the Jacksonville Riverwalk and the creation of new marinas for boat access. Khan and the Jaguars previously submitted a Shipyards proposal in 2015, but clean-up costs in the proposed area were prohibitive.

"There's certain space, soil, you don't want to disturb environmentally," Khan said. "It changes the footprint, changes the vision a little bit. I think it still has all the impact on how we can change Jacksonville for the better."

The Jaguars' current proposal also includes placing a high-end hotel where Metropolitan Park currently stands. A pedestrian bridge would connect the hotel with Daily's Place currently being constructed at the south end of EverBank Field.

Daily's Place, including the amphitheater and the accompanying flex field project, were approved and started following the 2015 Shipyards proposal. Khan said Wednesday that the pending completion of those projects helped shape the current Shipyards proposal.

"The practice facility, the amphitheater … we didn't know when the Shipyards would happen," he said. "Some of the things we can control, and we've already done that here with the flex field. Now, what are some of the other pieces we could add to make this a very, very vibrant downtown?"

Khan since purchasing the Jaguars has renovated the EverBank Field locker rooms and training facilities, and along with the City of Jacksonville installed the world's largest videoboards with a north end zone renovation that features two spas.

EverBank Field's US Assure Club was renovated last offseason, with the Daily's Place amphitheater scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day.

"I think we absolutely have to keep the pace up, faster, at a higher, different level – whether it's architectural style, experiences, we have to keep moving," Khan said.

Lamping said if the Jaguars' proposal was selected having construction activity in early 2018 wouldn't be "a stretch."

"The build out of that is probably over five or six years, but we would expect things to come and to the degree that the improvements are well received then that will accelerate the development," Lamping said.

Khan, asked to discuss the financial details of the proposal, said the Jaguars' goal is a proposal that works "for everybody – something that is really, really good."

"We want the best experience, and the price tag will follow," Khan said. "Once we get into that, we'll be able to refine that. … Just like here, if you go back over the last three years, when people come to this venue now, they can't believe it's the same place. Whether it's the end zones or the boards or right here at the club level, whatever.

"What we've done is imagined the best experience then, if it's relevant, get the city to pitch in and we write a check. That's how things have happened."

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