Large Venues and Small Business: Why Government makes it Impossible to Coexist

February 28, 2007 26 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Over the last 15 years, nearly a billion dollars has been poured into our downtown sports complex, and city leaders have been very quick to point to this as part of downtown’s revitalization. However, how much of an impact do these multimillion dollar venues really have on Jacksonville’s city core? Today, takes a look at the different facets of downtown revitalization as it relates to the sports complex.

What does “Downtown Revitalization” mean?  Apparently to some it means large venues that shuffle people in, put on a show, and force them out of downtown as fast as they possibly can.  If you’ve ever been to any sort of large event in the sports complex, you’ve seen this first hand.  The people in charge of traffic management over at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office apparently take pride in seeing how fast they can get 70,000 people out of downtown after a football game.  They will make lanes where there aren’t lanes, close nearly every north-south street, and (my personal favorite) bag every parking meter that they possibly can.

This gets people out of downtown rather quickly, but is that truly the goal?  It is completely inconceivable that someone would possibly want to go to the Landing or a downtown bar after a game?  With JSO turning the parallel parking lanes into traffic lanes on many streets, how is someone supposed to stop at one of these downtown merchants?

The Landing - so close, but with JSO's post-game traffic management, so far away.

The street that is particularly affected is Bay Street.  On one hand, the city wants to turn it into Downtown’s Town Center.  On the other, JSO turns it completely around and eliminates all parking along the street.  This past Saturday night – the night of the monster truck show - was particularly bad.  Most Jaguar games are on Sunday afternoons, so the bars on Bay Street are slow anyway.  However, the bars downtown rely on Saturday night to make their week.  Anyone want to venture a guess on how Mark’s did Saturday night with a few thousand Ford F-150’s barreling down the street, four lanes across and no parking?


A motorist - obviously confused by JSO's traffic management - makes his own rules. 


Downtown revitalization is not about hosting events – that does nothing for the small businesses. We need to embrace the crowds and make it possible for merchants to succeed.  Jacksonville is not the only city that has large venues in their downtown, but somehow other cities manage to make it work.

If we are going to get serious about downtown, then we need to get serious about accommodating the small businesses struggling to survive. We keep looking for a magic bullet; a guy with a suitcase full of money to single-handedly revitalize downtown.  Typically it does not happen that way – the retail, restaurant, and nightlife markets are what will make or break downtown.


Car after car is literally road-blocked from coming downtown. During this exercise in mass evacuation, the few roads that remain open lead directly to the interstate. Residents and patrons alike are ushered away, whether they like it or not.