Jacksonville Sports Foundation plans to attract new events to city

Such as the mayor’s office and city council Weight plans to Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium Renovations A new nonprofit plans to help Bringing additional sporting events to the First CoastThis will likely include a return NCAA tournament For basketball.

International football games, collegiate conference championships and more are on the Jacksonville Sports Foundation’s wish list, which officially launched on Wednesday.

The new 501(c)(3) nonprofit says its mission is to “harness the power of sports to unite people and raise the city’s profile as Florida’s championship city.”

City Council President Ron Salem, Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan and Michael Corrigan, CEO of Visit Jacksonville, are pictured at Wednesday's press conference to launch the Jacksonville Sports Foundation.

Action conference:ASUN will move its conference headquarters to Jacksonville this summer. this is the reason

“The foundation came about because when we started looking at the NCAA tournaments and trying to decide which tournament we wanted to bid on, we realized there was no central organization that could work on this from all the different areas,” Michael Corrigan said. , president of Visit Jacksonville, the city’s tourism and visitors agency.

Michael Corrigan, CEO of Visit Jacksonville, addresses the crowd during a City Hall press conference to announce the launch of the Jacksonville Sports Foundation.

In addition to Corrigan, the foundation’s leadership includes Mark Bennett, president of Bank of America Jacksonville; Debbie Buckland of Pinnacle Financial Partners; Kevin Hyde, a former City Council member with the law firm Foley & Lardner; and Mike Muldoon, former partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Mayor Donna Deegan applauded the foundation’s launch on Wednesday.

“This will go a long way for sports in our city,” she said.

NCAA hoops to return to Jacksonville?

LSU guard Tremont Waters (3) makes the game-winning shot as Maryland's Jalen Smith (25) defends in a 2019 NCAA Tournament second-round game in Jacksonville.

City Council President Ron Salem said launching the foundation is the next logical step in the city’s strategy to attract athletics, after approving $1.5 million in January toward that goal.

“From the beginning, my vision for this funding was to create a nonprofit entity to attract sporting events to Jacksonville, and I am thrilled that we are fully prepared to achieve that goal with the Jacksonville Sports Foundation,” Salem said. He said.

Deegan said Jacksonville sports in 2023 produced an estimated economic impact of more than $178 million, a number that includes events ranging from Football weekend between Florida and Georgia to Meet Bob Hayes’ Advocacy Track To the USA Taekwondo Championship.

The foundation’s mission is to connect Jacksonville with potential event organizers, Corrigan said.

“The sports world is mainly driven by going to conventions and conventions, bringing VIPs into town to show them your community,” Corrigan said. “This is what the foundation will do. This is the role they will have. They will work in partnership with the city’s Sports and Recreation Department and with Visit Jacksonville to achieve this goal.”

Georgia State's bench reacts to RJ Hunter's 3-pointer as coach Ron Hunter cheers from the floor after falling off his bench during the 2015 NCAA Tournament in Jacksonville.

Among the biggest rewards is the return of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena held six-game sets of first- and second-round games in 2006, 2010, 2015 and 2019.

Corrigan said the city is still waiting for word from the NCAA on the fate of its basketball bid. The NCAA typically names basketball host cities in a single announcement covering a multi-year set of four to five seasons.

NCAA basketball venues are closed through 2026, making the 2026-27 tournament the first open window for Jacksonville.

The city has bid to 14 NCAA tournaments in both Division I and Division II sports, Corrigan said. The Division II Festival includes this list, featuring championships for six sports in one location during one week.

The next Division II festival is scheduled for May 19-25 in Orlando and surrounding suburbs, which will include softball, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s golf, and men’s and women’s tennis.

The city previously estimated the economic impact at $5-7 million from the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s unclear how much inflation could change these numbers for the current tournament in Jacksonville.

“From archery to Zumba”

Racers round the first turn in the boys' 4x800-meter relay during the FHSAA Region 1-3A high school track and field event Thursday at Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida.  UNF is scheduled to host the state high school track championships from May 15-18.

The foundation is interested in attracting major and minor athletics events ranging “from archery to Zumba,” Corrigan said, noting venues ranging from Everbank Stadium to GB Small Park on Myrtle Avenue.

This could also indicate more events like the July one US Soccer Cup The exhibition, which will bring together the two English Premier League teams, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, at Everbank Stadium.

Jacksonville has attracted numerous soccer players to the stadium in the 2000s, including the United States men’s and women’s national teams as well as clubs from ArgentinaBrazil, England, Germany And Mexico. But after visits by American men in 2012, 2014 and 2016 and by American women in 2013, 2018 and 2019, the city was left on the outside looking in.

Alex Morgan poses for a photo with fans after the Women's National Soccer Team practice at Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, on Friday, February 8, 2013. The practice was open to the public and several hundred fans were able to see their team up close as they signed autographs after this Practice. [Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union]

The foundation’s official bidding list will also be USA Gymnastics competitions, Corrigan said. Jacksonville had previously hosted the USA Gymnastics Championships in June 1985.

Corrigan expressed confidence that the foundation and similar, distinguished local organizations, such as the city’s Sports and Recreation Department, will be able to avoid redundant operations.

“There are other city entities, including the Sports and Recreation Department, that can run events,” he said. “Our goal at the foundation is to bring those events to the city, generate interest and then close deals.”

Corrigan said the foundation is looking for corporate partners and volunteers. At present, Visit Jacksonville operates the organization for employees to join.

Other upcoming events already on the city’s schedule include the AAU Track & Field National Primary and Club Championships at Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida from July 7-13, the Constellation Furyk & Friends PGA Tour Champions Golf Championships at Timuquana Country Club in October and a riding event Super Girl Surf Pro waves at SeaWalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach in November.

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