Gator and Bulldog fans attending the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party may one day have more to do around Everbank Field than becoming riotously drunk. The Jacksonville Jaguars and owner Shad Khan unveiled a magnificently ambitious plan for what is known as the “Shipyards” property earlier this week. (The Shipyards is 48 acres of real estate along the St. John’s River between downtown Jacksonville and Everbank Field. The land is presently unused industrial brownfields and parking lots.)
This jaw-dropping video captures Khan’s vision for the property. As you watch, imagine how your Florida-Georgia, or Taxslayer Bowl, experience would be transformed by this development.
Dare to dream.
As a resident of the Jacksonville area there are a thousand reasons I would love to see the Shipyards property spearhead a massive wave of urban renewal that would be meaningless to the thousands of college football fans who only visit my city once a year. For those of you who fall into that category of visitors to Jacksonville only for the Cocktail Party, a developed Shipyards would change your weekend, not your life.
It would be a change for the better none the less.
I’ve now attended consecutive Florida-Georgia games and look forward to 30 more. I have, however, never seen such concentrated, fall-down, ugly drunkenness this side of Bourbon Street. I’ve been to college football games all over the country and throughout the SEC and not experienced anything like it. The scope and breadth of inebriation I observed at my two Cocktail Parties was unnerving.
It wasn’t funny or fun or cute. It was disgusting. It was dangerous. It was repulsive.
Perhaps fans at the game deserve a pass. There is literally nothing else to do around Everbank Field in the hours before and after the game – Florida-Georgia or otherwise – than drink. The nearest dining options are at the Jacksonville Landing two miles away. There is no entertainment, river walk, shops… or even bars. When fans drink at the Florida-Georgia game, they’re not slowed down by lines at a bar, they’re drinking out of liter bottles from car trunks and all-you-can-drink Solo cups.
The Shipyards would transform the city of Jacksonville and hopefully drop the blood alcohol content of the Cocktail Party closer to just twice the legal limit.
Restaurants, a marina, fountains, parks, boutiques and hotels between downtown and Everbank Field would provide Georgia and Florida fans with game day entertainment not measured in alcohol by volume. The Cocktail Party could still be fun and bawdy and boozy without the sloppy, urinate-on-the-sidewalk edge.
The Florida-Georgia game is on the short list of college football’s greatest traditions and spectacles, transforming the Jacksonville Shipyards would provide the teams and fans the home it deserves for a new millennium.
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