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View from the O-Zone: A future-altering vision

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JACKSONVILLE – Standing in the shadow of the 'Bank, Shad Khan on Friday put his vision into words.

Seeing and hearing Khan's vision has become a future-altering norm for this franchise and this city in recent years, but perhaps never had he put it so succinctly, so perfectly.

"My aspiration [for Jacksonville] is we no longer want to settle for being underrated," Khan said moments before he and other city leaders put 10 gold-plated shovels in a symbolic patch of dirt to break ground on the state-of-the-art amphitheater/flex field project in the South End Zone of EverBank Field that now will be known as Daily's Place.

"We no longer want to be a well-kept secret. We want to be a city where groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings happen with regularity, where all of us come together to make unbelievable things happen."

Khan concluded his remarks with, "So, let's be the best. Today's the evidence that we're well on our way to becoming the best."

Khan talked for a while on a podium just outside the South end zone on a sweltering, August morning. He spoke to the media a few minutes later inside the just-completed, state-of-the-art US Assure Clubs that are just the latest state-of-the-art upgrade to the 'Bank.

With the media, Khan addressed the Jaguars on the field. He addressed, too, the future of the Jaguars and the city. It's much the same vision as he has discussed since taking over ownership of the franchise in January 2012.

It's a franchise-, city-altering vision that has taken place so quickly that it's perhaps hard to keep in proper perspective.

The world's largest video boards …

The state-of-the-art locker rooms …

The pools and cabanas on the north end zone deck …

The state-of-the-art training facility …

The US Assure Clubs …

That's five ellipse-worthy renovations/re-imaginations in less than five years as owner, and when you watched the video Friday with the renderings for the flex field and the amphitheater …

Well, when you watched that, you got the idea that all of the renovations in the last five years might somehow seem like a prelude come next May.

That's the target date for amphitheater/flex field completion, and if the mind reels at the thought of such a project going from shovel to ribbon-cutting in nine months, the mind equally reels at what might still be to come.

"What's next for Jacksonville? Well, that's up to all of us here today," Khan told those gathered in the construction space just south of the 'Bank Friday morning. "The greatest cities in America don't ask for permission to move forward. They dream big, make decisions and take action.

"Every city has potential. It's a matter of recognizing it and making the most of it. Jacksonville as we see today now is making the most of its potential. I along with a lot of other people just love it."

Khan understandably was smiling Friday, saying "Any time you can start off with champagne at 9:30 in the morning, that's a great day."

With the official groundbreaking of Daily's Place, take a look at the final renderings.

The flex field/amphitheater concept, he said, is living up to his expectations. It will raise revenue for the team and city and provide reasons for people to come to Jacksonville and "have a great time in the process." It also is a potential site for the NFL Draft, something Khan on Friday again said he wants to see happen at the facility.

That's just part of Khan's vision for downtown Jacksonville. He was asked on Friday what the amphitheater project meant for the Shipyards development, the vision for which was presented by Khan and the Jaguars in February 2015.

Khan said much of the project still depends on environmental issues, but said the flex-field project all in all is "very good" for the Shipyards.

"It's absolutely embryonic, but important," he said, adding, "You've got to have some inertia to get something going. What we have now across the highway would be a great opportunity for a high-end hotel/convention center, which really this town needs. That's something [on which] we're going to try work with the city. …

Of the timing for the Shipyards, Khan added, "We don't control a lot of that. I think it depends on the city. But certainly we're ready to go and step by step we're going to move forward."

It was clear Friday that Khan's focus is moving beyond EverBank Field. The stadium itself, he said, is "is in great shape now" with much of the re-imagination is complete.

"Now, you take the power of the NFL and spread it to Jacksonville," he said.

That power – and Khan's vision – has changed EverBank Field. By May, it will have changed much of the surrounding area, too – and as he said, you get the idea the field won't be a well-kept secret for long.

If the last five years have shown anything, that soon will be true of downtown Jacksonville as well.

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