It’s high time for a little myth-busting regarding things to do or the purported lack thereof Downtown.
The notion that a trip to the city’s core is fruitless is false, and has been for quite a while.
It can be argued that, for the truly curious, there’s no lack of things to do Downtown as residents so readily claim.
The Elbow alone serves as a hotbed of activity in the form of live music and mixers nightly.
That’s to say nothing of the regular trade shows, markets, fairs and festivals. The area may leave a lot to be desired in the form of accessible parking and attractions, but with Art Walks and the like popping up with enough frequency to have your head spinning, the assumption that there remains nothing to do is certifiably false.
Why then do people cling to such a misinformed idea?
A poll of 643 Northeast Florida residents conducted in May by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory and published in J Magazine showed a generally outdated view of the neighborhoods that comprise Downtown,
More than 30 percent said they hadn’t visited more in the past year because they felt there was nothing to do. The area is, after all, fighting the stigma of having been a desolate wasteland for the better part of the last two decades.
The short answer is simply that people don’t know. And though interest has flashed during events such as One Spark and throughout the NFL season, sustaining the hype is where efforts fall short.
We’ve teetered at the edge of a breakthrough for quite some time.
Take One Spark’s 2015 festival, which achieved record-setting attendance of more than 300,000 people, or even the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose home games averaged almost 62,000 in 2016.
Then nothing. When the big events are over, it’s as though they never happened.
Bold Events LLC, Shad Khan’s newest business venture introduced at the beginning of the year could offer at least part of a solution, putting the infrastructure already in place to good use more often could bring more people Downtown for longer periods of time.
Conceptualized with the goal of branching out beyond the scope of ordinary team operations, Bold Events seeks to make the stadium area a hub for entertainment outside of simply hosting games or other NFL-related events.
As the controlling entity at EverBank Field, Bold Events LLC seeks to capitalize on the excitement built Downtown by Jaguars’ games, Daily’s Place and the area’s steadily growing entrepreneurship.
Hosting additional events provides yet another stream of revenue while also utilizing the space in unique ways.
Already, the influence of the Jaguars’ business arm can be felt.
Tasked with the operation and promotion of concerts held at Daily’s Place, which officially opened in May with a set by Tedeschi Trucks Band, Bold Events has locked in a slew of performances.
August will see the likes of hip hop heavyweight Future for a stop on his HNDRXX tour, Matchbox Twenty and Counting Crows and Mary J. Blige.
Young the Giant, Lauryn Hill and Nas, among several other artists, are set to take the amphitheater stage in September.
In addition, EverBank Field will play host to a resurrected, reimagined One Spark in October. The optimism ordinarily reserved for revitalization Downtown often goes unrewarded, but no one who has decried the lack of entertainment at our core could deny that this is kind of a big deal.
Combined with mounting excitement surrounding the introduction of Daily’s Place, there’s finally the promise of something to do, even for residents less in-the-know about Downtown’s activities.
And that momentum is important to keep, because the success of events Downtown could color expectations for projects in the future and the confidence with which we move forward with them. People witnessing the early successes of Bold Events might warily look to the Shipyards that Shad Khan has been seeking to develop for years; on a slightly less ambitious scale, the public’s willingness to support the Jaguars’ sister company could at least land the city more big name artists and shows.
But don’t just wait until then. For anyone still wary of the trip, I’d implore you to look to the area already rife with entertainment both new and old, including the locally made art, food and music that’s kept it alive when far less people turned an eye to it, like monthly Art Walks stretching several venues, festivals and live performances.
Patronize small businesses that have worked toward revitalization even before the work began to reanimate Downtown. Stop making yourself a stranger to the city and pay the place a visit.
Next time you’re Downtown, take a look around. There’s more happening there than you think.
Jasmine Marshall is a 2015 journalism graduate of the University of North Florida. She is a photographer and freelance journalist.