Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
Just across the street from The Baseball Grounds on A. Phillip Randolph Blvd, lies the second piece of the JSC, the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, a 15,000 seat multi-purpose arena which opened in 2003 and is home to both Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League (AFL) and the Jacksonville Giants of the American Basketball Association (ABA). The Arena was another piece of the Better Jacksonville Plan, costing over $130 million. The city spared no expense in making the Arena a first-class venue for sports franchises as well as major touring musical acts. Its predecessor, the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Coliseum which opened in 1960, was home to several minor league franchises including four minor league hockey teams, beginning with the Jacksonville Rockets (1962-1972) and ending with the Jacksonville Lizard Kings, who began in 1995 and folded in 2000. The Jacksonville Tea Men of the North American Soccer League (NASL) called the Coliseum home in the early 1980’s as did the Sharks predecessor’s, The Jacksonville Tomcats of the af2, the Arena Football League’s developmental league, from 1999- 2002.
In 2002, the Tomcats mediocre performance, problems with the aging Coliseum, combined to force the team to fold, but the AFL never took their sights off of Jacksonville market. Once the Vetrans Memorial Arena was built in 2003 the League began working on a plan to bring Arena football back and in 2010, with the expansion of the AFL, following the cancellation of 2009 season, the Sharks were awarded to the Jacksonville market as an expansion team playing out of the South Division. The Sharks and the city hit the ground running as the inaugural team set the league record for most regular season wins by an expansion team, winning twelve of their sixteen games, and ranked third in the league in ticket sales and average attendance. They advanced to the 2010 AFL playoffs, claiming the South Division title. In their second year in the league, they advanced to the ArenaBowl XXIV, defeating the Arizona Rattlers 73-70, for the first AFL Championship in franchise history.
The Jacksonville Giants of the American Basketball Association (ABA) were awarded to the area that same year once again as an expansion team and once again a quick league champion winning three consecutive regional titles in 2011, 2012, & 2013, and consecutive national titles in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, the team was recognized for their off the court achievements with the ABA National Charity Award for their work in the Jacksonville community.