by Cole Pepper
Wednesday’s announcement that the Jaguars and the city will jointly fund a $63 million project to put in place the biggest scoreboards in the NFL and a one of a kind fan entertainment zone, certainly generated a buzz in, and out, of Jacksonville. But some questions about its impact linger. Here are five:
How much of this is the city of Jacksonville on the hook for?
The city will fund about $43 million of the entire project with the Jaguars picking up about $20 million. The Jaguars are also responsible for any cost overruns. Any project savings (don’t hold your breath) will be earmarked for additional improvements at EverBank Field.
Does this mean the Jaguars aren’t moving to LA or London?
Frankly, it doesn’t change the truth of the situation, but it might go a long way to change perceptions. For instance, here’s how Sam Farmer of the LA Times opened his story on the stadium improvements:
If there’s any lingering Jaguars-to-Los Angeles speculation out there, this should put it to rest.
Many national writers/bloggers may not believe it, because it has been a convenient story line since the sparse attendance during the 2009 season. Truth be told, three factors combined to hurt the Jaguars attendance. First, the economy tanked. This hurt all small market teams, some more than others. Second, the team wasn’t winning. If the Jaguars were winning and they were still struggling to sell tickets compared to the rest of the league, then there would be a problem. And third, and this should not be underestimated, Wayne Weaver was positioning the franchise for a sale. He was reducing expenses and not putting a lot of long term debt on the books. Those three factors limited the Jaguars ability to sell tickets more than anything else. All of the fan enhancements that the Jaguars have implemented since Shad Khan bought the team are nice, but they are only there to overcome some of the objections that the team has heard from fans who no longer buy tickets.
But getting back to the question, no, it doesn’t mean the Jaguars aren’t moving because they weren’t moving before these improvements.
Really? Swimming pools?
Yep, Two of them in the North End Zone platform area. At this point, we don’t know if the pool will be a ticketed area, but my guess is that at least one of the pools will be available to be “rented” for the game either via a sponsorship deal or a premium ticket of some kind.
What are the chances that this helps draw a national championship game to Jacksonville? How about another Super Bowl?
Rick Catlett thinks so. The President/CEO of the Gator Bowl has been working for years to land the national championship game in Jacksonville. This can’t hurt. But as with the Super Bowl, it’s about more than just the stadium. The city has to be ready for all of the visitors. I’m told that Jacksonville has enough infrastructure to host a national championship game. However, it takes more hotels to host a Super Bowl, as we learned in 2005. As far as a future Super Bowl bid goes, treat these improvements as chicken soup for a cold. Is it a cure? Don’t know, but it can’t hurt.
Will this sell more tickets?
Keep in mind that the improvements won’t be ready to go until 2014. Will it sell more tickets this year? Maybe, if only because some fans will feel like the commitment is there from Shad Khan. But I would expect that this will do much more to create a buzz right now. Next year is when we will more likely see a more noticeable impact on tickets. If it works in Jacksonville, you can bet that other owners around the league who are having trouble getting fans off the couch on gameday, will follow suit with some kind of scoreboard arms race or add things like a pool (probably won’t see that in Minnesota).