Sunday, October 11, 2009

Paying for Jaguars' jungle has Jacksonville in debt

But since the team took the field for the first time in 1995, the math hasn't worked.

Even when then-Alltel Stadium was a tough ticket and the high-octane offense twice had the team a game from the Super Bowl, the stadium was being subsidized by taxpayers - at least $3 million a year to cover debt and other expenses.

As the city borrowed money to get Jacksonville Municipal Stadium primed for international eyes and the 2005 Super Bowl, the equation tilted further.

By the end of the 2007-08 budget year, the fund set up to pay stadium expenses was more than a million dollars in the red, and another $8 million-plus was needed to cover basic operating costs and debt service.

The plan calls for taking $5 million in bed tax revenue that will be freed up now that the Prime Osborn Convention Center is paid off - and directing those dollars to the football stadium, Veterans Memorial Arena and the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

The dollars would go for routine maintenance, which the city is contractually obligated to pay for. A 2007 study commissioned by the Jaguars shows a $148 million need over the next 30 years - from replacing every seat in the approximately 75,000-seat stadium to upgrading the sound system from analog to digital.

The city gets about $14 million a year in revenue - including a cut of ticket sales and parking costs. Those shares are adjusted annually for inflation.

Included in that $14 million is rent from the team and the $5 million in bed tax revenue already committed to the stadium.

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