The development company of Jaguars owner Shad Khan is interested in purchasing the land that the Jacksonville Fairgrounds may vacate for a future move to the Westside.
Preliminary budget documents released this week show the city could set aside $ 27.2 million over two years to help move the exhibition center from the downtown sports complex to an area around the equestrian center of Jacksonville off Normandy Boulevard.
Meanwhile, the Greater Jacksonville Fair Association will work over the next few months to negotiate the sale of the land it owns in the sports complex where the fair has drawn crowds for farm shows and halfway rides since 1955.
“There are still a few hurdles we need to overcome, but in all the years we’ve been talking about this and dealing with a possible move, this is the closest we’ve come to getting there,” said Bill Olson. , CEO of the association of non-profit fairs.
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He said the current site was “somewhat enclosed” by the Arlington Freeway, the sports complex parking lots and the stadium. The Westside site would not have these constraints.
“I think the move is going to be great for the fair,” Olson said. “We can grow up, we can get bigger, we can do a lot more things that we want to do.”
Iguana Investments, the company Khan uses for his development, said in a statement that the potential for a “private purchase of fairground property is, and has been, of interest to Iguana.”
“Iguana will continue to speak with representatives of the fair and explore a potential transaction, which would represent an additional investment by Shad and Iguana in the future of downtown Jacksonville,” the company said in a statement.
Iguana said a sale transaction would allow for the creation of more parking lots for people going to sports complex events and “much needed flexibility” for carpooling for major events.
Iguana said relocating the fair would lead to a better experience for those attending football games in the fall, because when the annual fair is in action, Lot P is closed to the parking lot so it can be used. half-way.
“It would also provide additional options as we consider what is potentially possible for the sports complex and bring benefits to the fair and the constituencies it serves,” the Iguana statement said.
Hosting participation in the fair, which is one of the most important in the country, on the same days the Jaguars play at home, is a topic of discussion between the team, the city and the fair association. since the 1990s.
Olson said for the fair’s association, a move to the Westside would benefit the annual fair by giving it additional space in a more rural part of town and fitting into the agricultural education mission of the association.
He said the compromise of a decision is that the fair association should find a way to replace rental income from events using the fairground facilities the rest of the year, as well as parking income from people using the exhibition grounds when attending games and concerts. .
He said the association had received “a few offers” for his property. He declined to comment on who made the offers. He said the association might be able within a few months to have an agreement in principle with a buyer.
If that comes to fruition and city council agrees to spend money on the relocation, the fairground could relocate whenever new construction is done in the Westside. Until then, the annual fair will continue to take place at the sports complex.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced a cancellation last year for the first time in the history of the Greater Jacksonville Fair, but this year’s fair is scheduled from November 4 to 14.
Jacksonville could move Veterans Memorial Wall
The Jacksonville Fairgrounds isn’t the only long-standing part of the sports complex that could move to another location.
The city is also examining the possibility of relocating the veterans memorial wall by moving it to a new park that could be located on the downtown riverside.
The relocation of the Veterans Memorial Wall, located between the football stadium and the baseball park, is only in the first phase of study. The Downtown Investment Authority is working with the Jessie Ball duPont fund on a plan for what a new park would look like in a vacant strip of city-owned land known as The Shipyards.
The idea is “purely conceptual” at this point, Lori Boyer, CEO of Downtown Investment Authority, said at a recent DIA board meeting.
She said the idea of placing the monument in the park was whether this riverside site would be “more respectful or more appropriate” for the memorial.
The Veterans Memorial Wall was built in 1995 and honors more than 1,700 service members who had ties to Jacksonville.
The duPont Fund’s study on the shipyard is part of a larger examination of how the city can bring more activity to the downtown riverside. The study has solicited public comment and will have a meeting via Zoom on July 13.
The study “conceptually examined” the creation of space for a range of memorials and the duPont Fund has discussed these concepts with groups who have an interest in it, spokeswoman Melanie Cost said.
She said “the details of the actual design of the park” will be defined later by the owners of the waterfront land.