TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars as well as the annual Florida-Georgia rivalry game and the TaxSlayer Bowl, has a history that technically dates back to 1927.
That’s when the original Gator Bowl was built. It was a much smaller stadium, but over the years it would undergo piecemeal upgrades aimed at keeping it up to standards to remain the host of the Florida-Georgia game.
That strategy actually worked remarkably well for several decades, but by the early ’90s it was no longer good enough. The city was at risk of losing the historic game – and its massive annual boost to the local economy – to Orlando’s Citrus Bowl. Nothing less than a complete overhaul was going to keep Florida-Georgia in Jacksonville.
In early 1993, then-Mayor Ed Austin proposed a $25 million renovation plan, then quickly increased that price tag to $49 million. Around that time, investors looking to bring an NFL franchise to Jacksonville hopped on board, convincing the city council to double the city’s investment.
Ultimately, the city would kick in $121 million for a renovation project that would involve demolishing almost all of the existing Gator Bowl Stadium. Only the concrete ramp system – added as part of one of the several renovation projects over the years – was retained from the old structure.
The funding agreement helped the city net the Jaguars later that same year.
The new stadium built around it was designed by HOK Sport (now known as Populous) and constructed by Huber, Hunt & Nichols.
Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, as it would be named, opened its doors in time for the Jaguars’ first regular-season game in 1995. Two years later, wireless network Alltel signed a 10-year naming rights agreement – the stadium became known as Alltel Stadium.
In 2000, the NFL voted to award the honor of hosting Super Bowl XXXIX to Jacksonville. In 2003,
$47 million in renovations began to prepare the stadium for the task of hosting the game. The Bud Light Zone was added, as were escalators and other upgrades.
Tarps were installed on just under 10,000 seats in the upper bowl in 2005 to help the Jags avoid local television blackouts for low attendance. The strategy didn’t work out as the team still suffered over a dozen blackouts over the next few seasons.
Despite the efforts to lower capacity, the stadium was still able to expand dramatically for bigger events. A college game between Florida State and Alabama at the stadium in 2007 drew a crowd of over 85,000.
When Alltel’s naming deal expired in 2007, its name reverted back to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. It would keep this name for three years before Jax-based EverBank purchased its rights, re-dubbing the stadium EverBank Field.
In 2013, city council approved $63 million in upgrades to the stadium, with new Jags owner Shad Khan pitching in $20 million of his own funds. This was the round of upgrades that added the infamous “world’s largest” scoreboards at each end, as well as the swimming pools in the terrace area.
In 2016, another $90 million public-private collaboration was approved, this time to upgrade the stadium’s club seating and add an amphitheater and flex field. The amphitheater, Daily’s Place, opened in May 2017.
The stadium was renamed TIAA Bank Field in 2018 to reflect its parent company’s merger.
In the next few years, the stadium is set to become the center of Shad Khan’s vision for turning the sports district into a lively activity hub. Its Lot J parking lot is set to become a large multi-use development, and the Shipyards is set to become home to a new convention center and potentially a Four Seasons hotel, among other additions.
If those plans are fully realized, the stadium’s best days may still be yet to come.