Jacksonville Jaguars team president Mark Lamping went over several topics during a virtual town hall meeting on Thursday discussing the development of Lot J, including the future of the franchise's plans in London.
Earlier in October, owner Shad Khan, Lamping and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced further visions for developments of Lot J, which property near the Jaguars stadium that the team and city hope to renovate to serve as an economic boost to Jacksonville's downtown. The projected is estimated to cost $445 million, with a "total direct public investment" of $152.7 million.
"Jacksonville’s downtown needs this. It needs life, promise and a reason for residents, businesses and visitors alike to consider Downtown Jacksonville as a destination," Lamping said during the meeting, via a transcript.
"Without a landscape-changing project like this, our downtown will be stagnant at best – and that’s unacceptable given all we have going for us with the river, accessibility, cost of living, no state income tax and a virtual blank canvas from which to work."
Among the primary questions raised when it has come to developing Lot J has been the Jaguars' future with playing regular season home games in London.
The games in London serve as a revenue boost for the Jaguars, and the team had plans to play two home games overseas in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NFL to cancel all international games.
The Jaguars had played an annual home game in Wembley Stadium in London each year since 2013. This year would have been the first time any NFL team played two games in London in one season, and the Jaguars would have been the first team in NFL history to play two home games outside of the United States in the same regular season.
2020 was the final year of the team's deal with the league to play games in London, and Khan said earlier in October that "there's nothing on the table right now" for games in London. Lamping was asked about London on Thursday and the executive made it clear that any future games in London is entirely up to the league before it is up to the Jaguars.
"Jacksonville is the home of the Jaguars. It has been the team’s home for the past 26 seasons, and it will continue to be our home into the future," Lamping said when asked if the team would stop playing games in London as part of the Lot J agreement.
"The London game has been extremely important to the Jaguars and has also provided benefits to the Jacksonville community. However, the NFL controls the fate of all games played in London and the teams assigned to play in those games, and the Jaguars’ current agreement to play games has expired. Any future decisions on London are on hold and out of the Jaguars’ hands."
Lamping also took questions on the team's stadium, which the team has a lease with that runs through 2030. The Jaguars have made a number of renovations to the stadium under Khan, but Lamping was mostly noncommittal when asked about the future of TIAA Bank Field.
"While the Jaguars’ stadium lease is unrelated to this proposal, the Jaguars are an anchor to downtown and the centerpiece of this project. This project is dependent upon the Jaguars’ presence to realize its full potential," Lamping said when asked about an extension of the lease. "There is no better evidence of Shad Khan’s long-term commitment to Jacksonville than his willingness to make such a significant investment. The Jaguars have long stated that a vibrant downtown will contribute to the long-term health of the franchise. "
"One of Shad’s first acts as owner was to invest in stadium improvements, and he’s done that consistently. Daily’s Place and the Flex Field followed. Now he is making a substantial investment in Lot J and, in doing so, making a big bet on Downtown Jacksonville," Lamping said. "How we fare as a downtown can ultimately affect how we look at the future of the stadium with the City of Jacksonville and other stakeholders. We believe a vibrant downtown can have a very positive effect on the stadium, which is why our focus today is solely on Lot J."