The Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday unveiled plans for a massive, near half-billion dollar investment into its facilities and the city of Jacksonville.
It's a major step forward for a franchise many assumed was biding its time for a full-time move to London, a retail development that would include a new Four Seasons hotel, a 116,000-square foot building for retail and office space, as well as improvements to city-owned marina and park spaces.
That's all well and good, but we're not here for that.
Also inside this $441 million plan is a brand new, standalone football facility that would replace a current facility that the team itself says "does not meet NFL requirements."
The team currently meets, trains and practices inside TIAA Bank Field. By moving out of the stadium except for game days, the Jaguars would allow space for renovations to the 25-year-old stadium while also donating the current indoor practice facility back to the city.
The team says the facility would cost $60 million and wants the city to contribute half of that.
As an enticement for the city of Jacksonville, the Jaguars say they would sign a longterm lease for the facility while also taking over responsibility for the upkeep of the football facilities, taking them off the city's hands.
The City-owned performance center will provide 125,000 square feet of space containing locker rooms, team and positional meeting rooms, training and recovery areas, medical support facilities, a state-of-the-art weight room, dining facilities, coaches and scouts' offices, a draft room and public meeting space. Additionally, there will be two full-size grass practice fields and a full-size indoor practice field, which will allow for the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department to program the existing Flex Field 300-plus days a year.
The new facility would also be designed to keep training camp in Jacksonville, with public view stands, restrooms and concessions, along with public meeting space and retail as well.
So, the question is why now? What's changed with the organization lately?
The answer, of course, is Urban Meyer.
That's not to say the team wasn't aware of its facilities issues before Meyer came aboard in January, but he has capitalized on the issue to spur investment from ownership.
It's exactly the same play he'd be making had he taken a college football job last winter.
In college ball, as we know, facilities are viewed as a necessity to survival thanks to recruiting. It's not necessarily that a player will commit to a school solely because they have a waterfall in the hydrotherapy pool or a locker you can take a nap in, but that they won't commit if a school isn't making the same investment as the other schools recruiting them. The dance in college football is thus: people inside of football who understand the entire enterprise is built upon keeping up with the Joneses facility-wise, played against the rest of campus who sees it as ridiculous that football invests eight figures a year into facilities while the history department is stuck with textbooks that stop with the George H.W. Bush administration.
There is no such song and dance in the NFL. That's not to say facilities are unimportant. The players are the franchise, after all, and so you can't expect to beat Patrick Mahomes while training at an LA Fitness. On the same token, only a certain percentage of your roster plays for you by choice, and most of that group signs with you because you offered more money than anyone else. The facilities are an afterthought (again, so long as they meet a certain standard.)
But as a purely professional enterprise, there is no governor on spending. You can build your palace as opulent as you want, the only thing stopping you is your owner's wallet.
Which is where Urban comes in. Trade a bowtied university president for automative manufacturing billionaire Shahid Khan and Urban is back in his element.
“We’re having a serious conversation about a facility here, a brand-new facility,” Meyer said in March. “I’ve put together a sports performance team that I expect to be the best in the NFL. You’re talking about Jacksonville, Florida … no state tax and all of the above … weather. I want this to be the destination place in the National Football League.''
Urban is the best of the best when it comes to spurring everyone around him to be as maniacally invested as he is, and though the level of ball is different, the plan of attack is the same.