JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville’s normal practice fields are a construction site. Heavy equipment. Dirt mounds. Scaffolding, steel beams and some concrete walls.
It’s where the Jaguars should be holding minicamp this week and training camp next month. Instead, the team is cramped onto the game-day field for offseason workouts and will bus to a nearby high school for training camp.
The setup is far from ideal, but the end result — a $120 million performance center that will get the team out of its home stadium for the first time since its inception nearly three decades ago — should be worth the trouble.
“It is another obstacle to kind of work through, but it’s not too big of a deal,” quarterback Trevor Lawrence said.
The Jaguars announced a 10-year naming-rights deal with Miller Electric on Monday, partnering with a local company as the small-market franchise enters the opening phase of what could end up being a billion-dollar revitalization to downtown Jacksonville. It's the vision of Shad Khan, who has contributed more than $500 million to the Jaguars during his decade of ownership.
The standalone football facility is the latest in his list of “Khan-ceptions” and “Khan-structions.” The Jaguars also are on the verge of breaking ground on a shipyards project that will include a Four Seasons Hotel, residences, an office building, a city-owned marina and an orthopedic center. It’s scheduled to be completed by the end of 2025.
A longer-term goal is revamping the team’s aging stadium, TIAA Bank Field. The Jaguars believe building the standalone facility was a necessary step in getting the Bank upgraded to modern-day standards that includes covered seating.
One of a few NFL teams that remain based inside their home stadium, the Jags would need a place to move during construction that would take place across several offseasons.
When the Miller Electric Center opens next summer, it will house offices, locker rooms, medical facilities, meeting rooms, a draft room, two full-size grass practice fields as well as one indoor field along with shaded public viewing stands, concession areas and a team store.
The building's concept came to fruition under former Jaguars coach Urban Meyer last year. His replacement, Doug Pederson, has offered his input on several potential changes, including the head coach's new office.
“Maybe a touch bigger,” he said, laughing. “It’ll have more windows.”
Jacksonville made several tweaks to its game field to better house roughly 90 players during practices and has plans to re-sod the grass several times in 2022. The Jags added artificial turf between the playing surface and the walls, creating more areas for position drills. It worked well during organized team activities, but those were spread out over days and weeks.
There’s no such luxury for training camp, so the Jaguars will practice at Episcopal High School. Episcopal has several fields at Jacksonville’s disposal. The Jags also will spend part of one week on the road taking part in joint practices with the Atlanta Falcons.
Before that, though, there will be dozens of bus trips and the need for plenty of coordination.
“Honestly, it’s a cool thing that we’ll just kind of (get through),” special teams coach Heath Farwell said. “It’s a challenge but makes it cool as a group. That’s what building a team is. All these little challenges in building a team, that’s the culture that Coach Pederson is talking about. That’s what we’re doing. We look at it positive.
"It’s a challenge that we’re going to accept. We’re going to have to drive a bus to training camp? OK, it’s more time that we’re going to have together on the bus. That’s the way I look at it.”
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Mark Long, The Associated Press