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Jacksonville Sports and Entertainment Commission could be abolished

Posted: April 8, 2014 - 5:18pm  |  Updated: April 9, 2014 - 8:04am

First Coast area business news

It could soon be game over for the Jacksonville Sports and Entertainment Commission, a city board that historically has been at the forefront of attracting sports events supported by taxpayer dollars.

Mayor Alvin Brown intends to file legislation that will abolish the nine-member board so the city can streamline its partnership with the Jacksonville Sports Council, a newly formed nonprofit that will raise private money and get administrative support from Gator Bowl Sports.

Brown also will ask City Council to elevate the city’s Office of Sports and Entertainment so its director reports directly to the mayor, rather than being within the Office of Economic Development.

The Office of Sports and Entertainment would oversee sports marketing, special events, and promotion of film and television activity in Jacksonville.

At a meeting of the Sports and Entertainment Commission on Tuesday, commission Chairman Ron Salem said the sports council might be the best way to generate more sports tourism.

But he said the city must ensure taxpayers can get a clear accounting of how their money is spent. “We have been a city entity, and this will be a private entity,” Salem said.

Big-time sports events can fill hotel rooms with fans and give Jacksonville television exposure. But there is a risk of losing money, such as the $736,000 hit the city took when it hosted the Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game in November 2012.

The Sports and Entertainment Commission wasn’t involved in the planning of the Navy-Marine Corps Classic. After the Times-Union reported in April 2013 on the loss, the city put the commission in charge of all spending out of the city’s sports trust fund, including approval of all contracts.

The legislation filed by Brown will have oversight for the sports trust fund, said Chris Hand, chief of staff for the mayor. He said the director of the city’s sports and entertainment office and the chief financial officer would both have to sign off on any expenditure from the trust fund.

In addition, the sports and entertainment office will make a follow-up report detailing revenues and expenses for any event that uses trust fund dollars, Hand said. That report will go to the chief financial officer and City Council Auditor’s Office within 60 days of the event.

Salem said he hopes going after the biggest sports events won’t cause Jacksonville to lose sight of smaller events that add variety.

“There are a lot of questions that need to be developed and answered as we go forward,” Salem said.

Joel Lamp, interim director of the city’s Office of Sports and Entertainment, said the city still would have a role in attracting events. For instance, the city will be sponsoring the P1 Powerboat races June 7-8 on the St. Johns River, and the city is trying to land the U.S. National Curling Championship in 2016.

He said the Jacksonville Sports Council will court bigger events and operate on a regional basis, rather than just in Jacksonville.

“This gets everybody under the big tent,” Lamp said.

Depending on what happens with Brown’s proposal, the meeting Tuesday might have been the last one for the Sports and Entertainment Commission.

“I think we’ve been very successful,” Salem said, pointing to events such as the University of Florida versus Florida State University baseball games and hosting “March Madness” college basketball.

David Bauerlein: (904) 359-4581

Comments (3)

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Redskins 04/09/14 - 10:12 pm

I believe Dongene hit on

I believe Dongene hit on reality!

DonGene 04/09/14 - 09:17 am
Premium Member

Jacksonville and the adjacent

Jacksonville and the adjacent beaches can not compete with cities located further south. Our weather is colder and hotter. We simply aren't what tourists think of when they talk about Florida. We have nothing to offer them. The Landing? Its a joke. The "Gator Bowl" game, now named something I can't remember, has deteriorated in importance and is a fourth rate game at best. Drive the highways around here and see the billboards that inform the tourists what is further south, Disney World, Sea World, Universal, the beaches located south, the destinations that the tourists are anxious to get to. Who can blame them?

This is a relatively nice place to live. But outside of that what else is there?

Noillusions 04/08/14 - 10:21 pm

FINALLY someone snaps out of

FINALLY someone snaps out of their overly optimistic, fluff & puff, foggy dream & recognizes REALITY!
I believe $'s (or the loss of MAJOR $'s) mandated this decision...jax ain't ready for nothing major & far from it!
Not withstanding the ever popular Monster Truck Jumps of course.

No, I don't think the Landing is a "World Class Entertainment Destination" it's sad so many in this town think it is.

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