Jaguars owner Shad Khan shares vision to revitalize troubled Shipyards near EverBank Field

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida — Jaguars owner Shad Khan describes it as Jacksonville's "boulevard of broken dreams."

If he gets what he wants, the road would become a lavish welcome mat for the city and the small-market franchise.

Khan hopes to turn Jacksonville's troubled Shipyards into an extravagant, riverfront business and entertainment district that would be a "game-changer."

"We see this as a franchise-stabilizing opportunity," Khan said after sharing his vision at his annual state-of-the-franchise address Tuesday.

Khan unveiled renderings of the revitalized Shipyards, which sit on a barren, city-owned, 48-acre stretch of land that runs along the St. Johns River near the stadium. The proposed venture includes skyscrapers, a marina, a hotel, an amphitheater, a park, a walking bridge and a two-story practice facility complete with a covered field.

The billionaire owner offered no estimate about how much the public-private project would cost, or a timetable for it to begin, but Khan has a history of getting what he wants.

In the three years since buying the franchise, Khan has spent $31 million of his own money to upgrade the locker room, the weight room, the training room and helped fund the installation of two wading pools and the world's largest scoreboards.

The Shipyards would be a considerably more expensive and expansive undertaking, probably topping $1 billion and taking years to complete.

Public officials have tried to develop the Shipyards since 1992. That's when Jacksonville Shipyards Inc., a ship repair business, closed and put 200 employees out of work.

In the two-plus decades since, countless public officials and real estate developers tried to turn the dilapidated property into a showcase for downtown Jacksonville. All of them failed.

Khan first noticed the property when he bought the team in 2011 — and he quickly realized its potential.

"An iconic structure, an iconic development, can change a community," said Khan, who used the Sydney Opera House, the London Eye and the Eiffel Tower as examples. "This has to be thought out, how it connects the city, the past, the future and how it impacts the Jaguars. But most importantly how it affects Jacksonville."

The Jaguars ranked 30th in the NFL in local revenue in 2013 — a key factor for the league's most stable and profitable franchises — but that figure jumped 23.5 percent last season. A lot of it had to do with the team's direction under Khan, general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley.

Jacksonville is just 9-39 the last three years, but there's a belief the team could make a huge jump in 2015. The Jaguars are about $60 million under the salary cap and plan to spend much of it in free agency.

"There are a lot of things that need to happen to stabilize the franchise," team president Mark Lamping said. "Playing better would be the most important thing we can do right now and hopefully that will come. Stabilizing the franchise by making the sure the market is strong is one of our real objectives. We believe that in some respects how downtown Jacksonville goes, so goes the region.

"The more people that live downtown, the more people that work downtown, the more people that visit downtown, the more people we can try and sell tickets to. The key to this franchise is doing everything we can to find new revenue streams, but to ensure, more than anything else, that we sell tickets and we sell them at a good price."

The Jaguars also unveiled a proposal to renovate club seats in 2016. The revamp would reduce capacity by 2,744 seats while providing glass walls between the club section and the modernized stadium. The proposal still needs approval. The Jaguars and the city are competing for state funding to help pay for those renovations.

The state of Florida's Joint Legislative Budget Commission is scheduled to meet this week to determine how much Jacksonville and the three other cities vying for tax dollars — Orlando, Miami and Daytona Beach — will receive. The amount available is $7 million.

"If nothing else to take away from this, the strategy to make EverBank Field a great place is a really good recipe to have a stable NFL franchise in Jacksonville for a long time to come," Lamping said.

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