UNF Poll: Duval County voters don’t want to fund stadium upgrades, but want Jags to stay

A new poll from the University of North Florida shows a majority of registered Duval County voters are opposed to spending public funds on stadium and sports district development, but many are willing to compromise to keep the Jaguars in town.

The Public Opinion Research Lab survey asked several questions about the public-private partnership between the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguars to make renovations to the city-owned EverBank Stadium and develop the surrounding sports district at a total estimated cost of $2 billion.

Survey respondents were given a choice of outcomes, ranging from no public investment to spending $1 billion of public funds.

READ: Full results of UNF Poll

The researchers said that the results were not surprising: 51% chose the Jaguars purchasing the land and paying for stadium renovations and sports district development with no public investment.

Only 6% supported the $1 billion public investment currently being proposed by the Jaguars. And the remaining 33% were split between $250 million and $500 million of public funds being spent on the upgrades. The other 9% said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

But when the question was framed as an ultimatum: spend the $1 billion or the Jaguars leave town — the results changed significantly.

When asked whether they would support the city spending $1 billion if it meant the difference between the Jaguars staying in Jacksonville or moving to another city, 46% said yes and 47% said no. Even among those who oppose spending any public funds on the project, 33% were willing to split the cost when faced with the possibility of losing the team to another city.

Of those who initially said they’d support only $250 million in public funds, 57% conceded to the higher cost when given this choice, and 72% of those who initially said $500 million changed their answer in support of a $1 billion investment.

PORL faculty director Dr. Michael Binder said it’s not surprising voters don’t want to foot the bill for stadium renovations.

“But what’s really interesting is their change of heart when given the ultimatum of a $1 billion public investment or the Jaguars walking away,” Binder said. “This is just one of several reasons that local taxpayers are going to end up shelling out an enormous sum of money for this endeavor.”

When asked what was most important to them in a potential deal between the city and the Jaguars, 45% said community and economic investment in underserved neighborhoods, creating more entertainment downtown garnered 19%, 17% said negotiating the smallest possible public investment, 5% said minimizing construction time to ensure more games played at home, and just 4% said fixing the temperature problems in the stadium was most important.

In another question, 41% of respondents said that previous public-private partnerships with the Jaguars and owner Shad Khan, like the practice fields, Daily’s Place and previous stadium upgrades, met their expectations for economic growth and development downtown, 27% said they failed to meet their expectations and just 9% said they exceeded their expectations.

“When it comes to the stadium and sports district deal, folks are mainly concerned with the economic benefit to the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods,” Binder said. “Voters seem relatively satisfied with the way other public investments like Daily’s Place and the new scoreboards have gone in the past.”

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