JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars want to be London’s team for the foreseeable future.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan said Tuesday he expects to sign a long-term deal to continue playing annually in London. If Khan gets his way, it will be a 14-year commitment.
Speaking at a kickoff luncheon inside EverBank Stadium, Khan said he’s “optimistic, obviously, that we’ll have a renewal on (London) and it will go for a long time.”
Khan then added that he would like to see the contract extended until 2030.
The Jaguars are entering the third year of a four-year deal to play one game annually at Wimbley Stadium.
“It’s been probably the No. 1 element to stabilizing the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Khan said. “Hard to believe it’s over, the four-year deal now. But I think it’s a critical part of our franchise to be able to play games there, get the recognition, build the fan base and get sponsors.”
The Jaguars say their annual trip to London — one of 10 home games — accounts for 15 percent of the franchise’s local revenue.
“For us, London and Jacksonville is great, almost a marriage made in heaven for us,” Khan said. “I would expect the NFL would maybe look at other areas, other markets to develop. But we want to have a focus, and Jacksonville supplemented with London is our focus.”
Khan said there are no plans for Jacksonville to play more than one game in London and he doesn’t want to play at any venue other than Wimbley Stadium.
He also expects the NFL to play no more than five games a year in London.
“It’s my guess, but I think that’s probably what they’ll end up with,” Khan said. “Looking at the market, we spent obviously three years studying it. So that’s my best guess. It’s pretty much my assessment, but I think most people agree with that.”
The kickoff luncheon provided several other news items:
— Khan released details of a plan to build a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility near EverBank Stadium. Khan said bids for the project are being reviewed and renderings should be done in a few weeks. He estimated the project would cost around $30 million, which would mostly come out of his pocket. Even though the stadium is publicly owned, there’s an amendment in the lease that affords Khan and the Jaguars the right to develop the land. Khan wants a multi-use facility that “should be taking the stadium and kind of extending it with hopefully a cool, iconic, architectural structure.”
— Coach Gus Bradley offered his strongest statement yet on the team’s rebuilding project. Having gone 7-25 in Bradley’s first two years, he said the Jaguars are poised to compete in the AFC South. Jacksonville has built mostly through the draft, but also committed about $180 million in free agency in the spring.
“We had a team meeting when we initially started training camp and we talked, ‘Our objective is to build a team that owns the AFC South,'” Bradley said. “And that means year-in and year-out, we’re owning the AFC and the South division. That was our mindset. We told them, ‘We’re building to have a team.’ And I said, ‘This year, we built the team. It’s built and it’s time,’ and our players need to have that mentality.”
— Khan said he has been encouraged by quarterback Blake Bortles’ development. The second-year starter has completed 65 percent of his passes for 461 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.
“If you’re a Jaguars fans, the light went on for everybody,” Khan said. “Now, that’s probably the most important thing a team would have: quarterback play. And we see something that can sustain us.”
— The owner also gave Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell a vote of confidence heading into their third season.
“Are we better than we were two years ago? And I think unquestionably we’re better than we were two years ago,” Khan said. “They’re great people, hard-working people and they’re doing everything they can to help move the team forward.”
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