Negotiating new Georgia-Florida game contract: What mayoral candidates are saying

Jacksonville’s mayoral candidates are weighing in on the possibility that Saturday’s Georgia-Florida game could be one of the last hosted here in the Bold City.

Republican mayoral candidate Councilmember Al Ferraro and Democratic mayoral candidate Donna Deegan agree that the Georgia-Florida game is worth keeping in the Bold City.

“It’s a wonderful thing for Jacksonville to have all those eyeballs here and it’s a multimillion-dollar economic impact for us,” said Deegan.

“I do think this is an important part of our history of Jacksonville,” said Ferraro.

But the clock is ticking for the teams to renew their contract with the city.

The extension through 2025 has to be exercised by June 30, Mayor Lenny Curry’s final day in office.

Comments made by Georgia’s head coach and a joint statement put out by both teams sparked fears the nearly 90-year-old tradition could be nearing an end.

“Some of it is posturing, but some of it is the fact that we’re adding Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC. That’s going to shuffle things a little bit,” said Deegan.

If the teams don’t extend, the next mayor of Jacksonville will have three months to negotiate a new contract.

We heard from four of the five top mayoral candidates Thursday.

All said they would fight to keep the game in Jacksonville.

“As mayor, I will work to ensure the historic match between the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs continues to be held in our great city for years to come. The economic impact on the city is significant, and I also will actively recruit new events that contribute to a more vibrant downtown,” said Republican mayoral candidate LeAnna Cumber.

“The Florida-Georgia game is extremely important to Jacksonville in many ways. Jacksonville shines nationally and internationally, really boosts our tourism dollars and positively gives us a great return on investment. The issue at hand seems to be about recruitment and NCAA rules in terms of designation venue (as) home/not home, which would be case even leaving Jax. Ultimately this issue relates to the value of the playing at the individual institutions,” said state senator and Democratic mayoral candidate Audrey Gibson. “I would (be) open to discussion of adding value to keep the game in Jacksonville, with a keen eye on any negative impact on return of investment for our city.”

Deegan and Ferraro echoed that sentiment.

“It probably comes down to negotiating a deal that makes sense financially for everybody,” said Deegan.

“Whatever we can do, but we want to make sure that we’re financially responsible with the taxpayer dollars with what we’re doing,” said Ferraro.

We didn’t hear back from Republican mayoral candidate Daniel Davis, though he has been quoted speaking in support of keeping the game in Jacksonville.

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