Last summer, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan, City Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and Jags President Mark Lamping took a little trip that made a big (though fleeting) stink among local media outlets. The boys’ trip, which commenced over three days and was taken via Khan’s private jet, was ostensibly to tour three properties (in Kansas City, St. Louis and Baltimore) developed by Multinational developer Cordish Companies — a potential partner for the Jacksonville Shipyards project.
A quick recap. In 2017, Khan’s Iguana Investments was granted the rights to develop the Shipyards — a vacant, downtown, waterfront tract of land that the City of Jacksonville has agonized over since the mid-1990s. Iguana’s proposal included $500 million in private investment to build at least one upscale hotel, hundreds of condominiums and apartments, hundreds-of-thousands of square feet of office, retail and restaurant space, and a marina with hundreds of boat slips.
Depending on who you ask, the Shipyards project just may be the saving grace of the city’s urban core, or, like many other proposals before it, meh. It’s very clear that City leaders believe it to be the former — hence the first-class, three-day “brocation” back in July to find some inspiration from successful development projects in other cities.
But while there was some mild finger wagging from now-retired Florida Times-Union columnist Ron Littlepage — who said that there should be “a bit of queasiness” surrounding the City’s mayor riding “in a luxurious private jet courtesy of Khan, who … undoubtedly will be asking for money from the City to complete the Shipyards project” — my own imagination stalled on a different set of circumstances.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall on that private jet!
Do you think Curry and Khan and others watched sports and threw back some cold brew-dawgs (that’s what you do on a boys trip, right)? Do you imagine they each made small cuts on their index fingers and bonded as Duval Blood Brothers 4 Life? Do you think Mayor Curry — a noted fan of the music of Jay-Z — threw on his fave Hova jams and rapped along?
And lastly, why did the powerful Jax foursome not fly to California and make an appointment with 11-time surfing world champion, Sunshine State native and wave pool tycoon Kelly Slater? Pray tell, if Curry and Khan and Lamping and Mousa had access to a private jet — with Jay-Z blasting, sports on the TV and blood bonds forged — did they not fly to Leemore, Calif. to see Kelly Slater Wave Co.’s wave pool? Could you imagine a better fit for our all-important Shipyards?
Surely you’ve seen the videos (the first of which broke the Internet roughly two years ago) of Slater’s feat of scientific ingenuity. Surely, you’ve heard the Cocoa Beach native has created the perfect wave. In a pool. In Leemore, Calif. of all places! What’s more, San Diego is trying to redevelop its own downtown and Slater has proposed a wave pool to help them do just that.
“California gets all the cool shit,” you might say. But wait, the city of Palm Beach, Fla. will actually get the first of Slater’s wave parks, set to open in 2019, right about the time when Jacksonville hopes to break ground on its Shipyards project.
And doesn’t a wave pool just make perfect sense for our Shipyards? Jacksonville is one of only a handful of large metropolitan areas with unfettered access to year-round, warm, quality surf. We have a rich, storied surf history. Our surf community is vibrant, eclectic and has enthusiastically supported Khan’s football team through thick and thin. Doesn’t this community, then, deserve nice, surf-related things?
And there’s never been a better time to pose the very important question of Jacksonville’s Shipyards having a wave pool. The momentum is currently on our side.
As the Shipyards development will be, of course, hinging on a yet-to-be-determined amount of federal, state and local funding, the City has been proactive in making moves to secure such financing. In November, Curry’s administration submitted a bid for a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help prep the areas surrounding the Shipyards. And the City has asked the State Legislature to contribute $12.5 million more to the project, according to the Financial News & Daily Record.
Meanwhile the roars of Jags fans celebrating the team’s near-trip to the Super Bowl will certainly help drown out any voices opposing the City handing out more money for a Shipyards project indelibly linked to the team’s owner, who has already received many millions in taxpayer money to add swimming pools, an amphitheatre and the world’s largest video screens to his team’s facilities over the past few years.
With money coming our way, wave pools proliferating across the country, a football team on the rise and access to a private jet, there’s never been a better time for City leaders to make an appeal to Kelly Slater and demand he bring his wave pool to our great city. It’s time for another boys trip, Curry, Lamping, Khan and Mousa. Viva Leemore, Calif.! Quick, while Littlepage isn’t looking!