ORANGE PARK – Mark Lamping had the perfect audience last Monday to gain support for a new football stadium for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His team played its regular season opener on Sunday, and more than 100 fans suffered heat-related issues. A new stadium would get fans out of direct sunlight and provide four passageways for cooler air to filtrate through the stands.
The team president met residents, many of whom were at Sunday’s game, at the Thrasher-Horne Center as the Jaguars expanded its push for a new stadium beyond the Duval County line.
“You know, we had well over 100 heat-related incidents – 36 hospital transports,” Lamping said. “That’s not fair to have our fans have to experience that.
“That was about as bad as it gets.”
The team and Jacksonville City officials opened negotiations last week for a new stadium. At 29 years old, EverBank Stadium is one of the oldest facilities in the National Football League that hasn’t been renovated or replaced recently.
The expected cost is $2 billion, with taxpayers and the Jaguars going 50/50 on the deal. The good news is despite having the biggest fanbase of season ticket holders in Northeast Florida, Clay County won’t have to pay a dime. It’s Jacksonville’s bill.
But that doesn’t shield us from the sun and heat.
Heat continues to be the most significant concern. Sunday’s temperatures reached 91 degrees, but a 54% humidity level prompted Jacksonville Fire Rescue to answer 110 calls – and send 36 to the hospital. Field temperatures surpassed 115 degrees.
When the Jaguars asked fans to complete a survey of what they wanted from a new stadium, 81% of the 6,000 respondents said shade. Lamping said a proposed Viewscope roof would reduce heat by 10-15 direct sunlight degrees.
“It is raised both the north and the south ends, and it’s designed to take advantage of the prevailing winds to capture the wind and bring it inside the seating bowl,” Lamping said. “And it’s almost like it’s almost like an umbrella over the stadium, so it is not enclosed. One of the things we also do to encourage progressive airflow inside the stadium is that when you look at it, we cut big breezeways in each of the corners of the stadium.”
I’ve worked at EverBank Stadium more than 50 times, and I believe it needs a major facelift. The ramps are too narrow and the concourses are too narrow. When fans try to get out of the sun, they’re forced to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the muggy concourse. To top it off, the selection of food and drinks isn’t very imaginative.
Lamping said everything will change with a new stadium. He also was more specific on what fans can expect.
First, he said the current stadium will be renovated, not replaced. He also suggested the Jaguars are leaning toward playing home games at the University of Florida during the one- or two-year construction project. Plan B would probably involve Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
New escalators and elevators are coming, along with renovated and 14 additional restrooms. There will be 220 points of sales for food and beverages – and a stipulation by outside vendors that they can’t increase their prices from what’s charged in their restaurants.
If approved by the city and at least 75% of NFL owners, construction will start in January 2026. The project will include a mixed-use neighborhood around the stadium, arena, ballpark and amphitheater.
Capacity will be 61,928, but with expandable seats behind removable sideline video boards, the stadium can seat 71,608.
Clay County will benefit from a stadium that can host Jaguars games, Florida-Georgia, TaxSlayer Bowl games, major concerts, international soccer and be part of the College Football Playoff National Championship rotation. And we will get it without a bill.
That’s what I call a real win-win.