Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants to find “creative solutions” for the sweltering summer sun that bakes the team’s stadium — and fans — early each season.
One potential fix involves drones.
Khan said Thursday at Jacksonville’s state of the franchise presentation that upgrading TIAA Bank Field is a priority and noted that adding a shade structure would enhance the game-day experience for fans. The billionaire businessman then mentioned one of the “many, many creative solutions” he’s seen.
“There was a very creative solution with drones during a (soccer) game, kind of holding a cover up,” Khan said. “It was very futuristic, but it could be very cost-effective only on the days you need it. I don’t know how feasible it is, but as an engineer, when I saw that — that was for the World Cup in Qatar — I thought, ‘Boy, that (would) work very well for us.’
“We want to look at creative solutions that are very cost-effective.”
Khan already has invested nearly $80 million to upgrade city-owned TIAA Bank Field, including money spent on scoreboards, pools, an adjoining amphitheater and renovated locker rooms.
He is hoping to break ground on another revitalization project near the stadium that will included a boutique hotel, a residential building, office spaces and an entertainment district. It could be years before that’s complete.
In the meantime, Khan and the Jaguars hope to find a way to take the heat off their fans.
Team president Mark Lamping pointed out that every franchise in the NFL except Buffalo and Jacksonville has either relocated, built a new stadium or spent at least $300 million on stadium renovations since the Jaguars entered the league in 1995.
The Bills last month hired a firm to conduct a feasibility study regarding renovating New Era Field or building a new venue.
The Jaguars have 11 years remaining on their lease with the stadium.
“I don’t think there is any reason why this stadium couldn’t be a candidate for a major renovation,” Lamping said. “We really haven’t gotten into the details, but we do recognize that it is an issue for many of our fans.
“If you are going to do something to that magnitude, you should be talking about it at least five years before you want it to be done. I would think it is not inconceivable that we will start discussions with the city, perhaps … over the next four years.”
Khan tried to strengthen Jacksonville’s foothold in London by bidding $790 million (£600 million) on Wembley Stadium last April. He withdrew his offer for the English Football Association’s main asset in October after recognizing the extent of opposition to the sale.
Khan and the Jaguars insist the move was never intended to create a potential relocation spot for the NFL team but rather a way to gain more control over American football in the burgeoning overseas market. It also would have funneled more money back to Jacksonville.
Khan said Thursday he’s optimistic a Wembley deal could be back on the table soon, maybe after the Football Association changes CEOs from Martin Glenn to Mark Bullingham.
“I think it has to make sense for the FA, but when that happens, I think it still is just as good a case,” Khan said. “I think we had a very, very good case for doing it, but I’m optimistic. I think eventually when they are ready, we will be ready.”
Until then, Khan will focus on improving home games in Jacksonville.
“The stadium has to be upgraded. I think that is our approach,” Khan said. “We want to continue to invest with the city to make the stadium be better.”