By Jared Brehm | firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the city of Jacksonville was awarded the Jacksonville Jaguars by the National Football League in 1993, the city has been the focus of continual growth with the hopes of becoming a future hub for more sports team’s venue locations.
Since 2012 when the original owner of the Jaguars Wayne Weaver sold the team to current owner Shad Khan, this long shot of a dream has gradually taken steps towards becoming a reality. In February of this year, Khan unveiled a proposal to take a 1-mile strip of abandoned property along downtown Jacksonville’s East Bay Street and turn it into the welcome mat to the city.
Khan laid out his idea for the new Shipyards in the Jaguars “State of the Franchise” address earlier this year. “The Shipyards would give Downtown Jacksonville the kind of iconic identity that many downtown districts in the United States enjoy and we currently lack,” he said on www.jaguars.com. According to Khan, the opportunity for the Shipyards to become a success is not just great for the Jaguars, but for the city as well. The plan would include over 500 marina docks and over a million square feet of office space, not to mention a three-story practice field that can be utilized by other teams besides the Jaguars.
Currently, Jacksonville also houses non major league teams such as, the Miami Marlins AA affiliate, Jacksonville Suns, NASL Soccer Club team, Jacksonville Armada, ABA Jacksonville Giants, and the Arena Football League Jacksonville Sharks. But what about the future beyond the Jaguars and the NFL, say a MLB or NBA team? Could Khan and the Shipyards give other major sports leagues the notion that Jacksonville is an up and coming sports market?
Rick Catlett, president and CEO of the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, said it could for have the potential to attract something smaller like hosting the NCAA National Championship in Jacksonville , that the new Shipyard plans bring the action and connectivity of the city to the downtown.
“The combination of the stadium and the hotels and the beautiful river to entertain fans that would come in, you could do it all downtown,” he said.
When asked about the potential for more sports or another major sports team, Catlett pointed out the reasons why it’s a viable option and more possible with the Shipyards announcement: “I think as Jacksonville grows you’ll see more sports and organizations have events here. I don’t think there is any doubt having the flexibility of our $5 million sports complex with a stadium that can have 20,000 or 80,000 people in here.”
Catlett said that the Baseball Grounds and Veterans Memorial Arena are fully updated and only add to the real possibility of landing a major team in the future. “I think the future is very bright. Can we support an NBA or MLB team now? No, but we have a great nitch, so I think the sky is limitless.”
Catlett said that while outside critics might laugh at the notion of Jacksonville receiving a future major sports team, it was not that long ago they were laughing at the same idea about the Jaguars. “You know one of the things they used to laugh at us in 1980 was when we started chasing the NFL and then 13 years later we got the team,” he said.