Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs
By: Robert Craft
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry said renovations to TIAA Bank Field could force the Jaguars to play in a different venue for up to two seasons. Here’s what you need to know:
Curry, speaking on 1010XL radio, said the renovations could halt games in the stadium from 2025-26. He said they are looking into local options for that timespan, similar to how the Los Angeles Chargers previously played at Dignity Health Sports Park while waiting for SoFi Stadium to be completed.
On the college side, Lenny Curry explained how TIAA Field’s improvements will impact two seasons of the Florida-Georgia rivalry game- historically, hosted in Jacksonville (est 1933).
The only exceptions were in 1994 and 1995 when the games were played on campus while TIAA Bank Field was originally renovated prior to the Jaguars’ inaugural NFL season.
Curry suggested both teams could play one game apiece at home before returning to the city in 2027.
For our cats in Jax, Curry stated the goal is a venue in Jacksonville. Here’s the catch- there are zero venues as large as 27,000-seats. The Chargers played in a stadium this size following their move to Los Angeles. In Jacksonville’s case, The University of North Florida, which has no football sponsorship, has Hodges Stadium with only 9,400 seats.
While Jacksonville doesn’t have large stadiums with luxury boxes or modern amenities, there is an option 74 miles away: The 90,000-seat Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.
The critical question is can the university logistically handle seven UF home games and the Jaguars’ pro schedule (minus London games).
If the Jaguars need to search for a home away from home for two seasons- they will survive. It isn’t the first time a team has faced such a problem in the league, and it won’t be the last. The NFL has rode this rodeo many times.
After the roof in the Metrodome partially caved in, the Minnesota Vikings played the 2014 and 2015 seasons at the University of Minnesota’s stadium, then named after TCF. The team moved into the new US Bank Stadium in 2016.
The LA Chargers, after relocating from San Diego, played for three seasons in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium before SoFi Stadium opened, while the LA Rams played four seasons at the dated LA Coliseum before the teams’ shared venue was ready.
These temporary options were imperfect venues for each team. Assuming the Jaguars need a place to play in 2025 and 2026, it almost assuredly will not be a perfect solution.
Fans and VIPs will be missing many of the modern accouterments they’ve grown to expect.
There is another possibility. The team already contests one home game a season in London, so perhaps the league will increase Jacksonville games for these two transient years?
As for Georgia and Florida, they have an agreement to play games in Jacksonville through 2023 with a two-year option to extend the contract after that. Prior to the game this past season, the two schools released a joint statement on the future of the game in Jacksonville.
“The annual game between our two universities is an important tradition. Currently, both programs are focused on our current seasons.”
“Typically, both schools begin conversations regarding future games in the series as the last contracted game nears. We anticipate following that timeline. When those discussions take place, we will consider a multitude of factors including tradition, finances, future SEC scheduling models with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, and what is best for both schools’ football programs overall.”
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has called for a change to neutrality. His concern is the recruiting disadvantage that it puts the programs at playing the game at a neutral site.
Billy Napier has deflected questions about the future location until he has a chance to experience the game first hand.
I’ll throw out the possibility of a game in Tampa, Orlando, Atlanta, or Miami when Jacksonville is unavailable.
The idea of keeping the game at a neutral site makes some sense and cents, especially if one is in Florida and the other in Georgia.