There’s something big happening in Jacksonville, Florida – and no, I’m not talking about Monster Jam. Recently, I had an opportunity to tour EverBank Field and the ongoing construction taking place, and man is it the total package. If you’re not familiar, the Jaguars and The City of Jacksonville are in the process of revamping the stadium. The biggest change will be the largest video boards in the world, as well as a renovated north end zone with pools.
Yes, I said pools.
You’re probably asking yourself – why?
(INSERT LAME RELOCATION JOKE ABOUT THE JAGUARS)
Okay, I’ll go ahead and address the elephant in the room. I hate to do it, but I know what you’re thinking. The national perception is that the Jacksonville Jaguars are moving, or that their fans don’t care.
On behalf of Jaguars fans: lol.
As Jacksonville’s fans like to say: “We’ve had a team for 20 years and have been ‘relocating’ for 18.” In other words: I’ll believe it when I see it.
When you think about it, there’s never been any concrete evidence to support those claims, just speculation:
Attendance - The Jaguars haven’t had a blackout during this decade, and they average more fans than some of the more established teams in the league.
Tarps - The stadium was built to hold 83,000+ for the annual Florida-Georgia game, which has a much deeper history in North Florida. When it comes down to it, EverBank is just too big for the market – hence the creative enhancements.
On Field Performance - I’m pretty sure Buffalo has a longer playoff drought. But as we all know, winning cures all.
Players Don’t Want To Play There - No state sales tax, Florida women and palm trees. Sounds terrible.
London - Didn’t the Bucs play in London for a few years, too? Don’t the Glazer’s also own a Premier League team?
L.A. - Haha, sure.
If you think Jaguar fans are cowering from this chatter, check out #jaguarstwitter.
But this article is not about those pundits or the naysayers: it’s about what’s going on right now at EverBank Field. It’s about the energy. It’s about the Khanstruction. About the 6,400 + who showed up for a rookie mini-camp, and another 1,700 who showed up for a Thursday morning OTA. It’s about the rebranding of a team.
In 2013, a year after Shad Khan bought the Jaguars, Team President Mark Lamping unveiled a very ambitious plan. The team wanted to send a notice to other stadiums by building the world’s largest video boards (that’s boards with an “s”). Most fans and media members shrugged it off as another great idea that would never come to fruition. Fast forward a few months later: Jacksonville and the organization came together to make it happen.
A $63 million partnership between the team and The City was fast-tracked, and construction started less than two weeks after the end of the Jag’s 2013 campaign. Khan has committed $20 million of his own money for the project, on top of the other renovations that have come out of his pocket since buying the team. The other half is being paid for by the bed tax, which voters established for just this reason. Revenue from the tax comes from people who stay at area hotels, and doesn’t affect the average person living in Duval County.
Okay, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty on these boards.
They are 363’ x 60’ each, with about 21,700 sq. ft. of digital space. That’s roughly double the size of the boards in Jerry World, and a solid upgrade from the video boards installed in the early 1990s. They’ll feature in-game action and fantasy football content. Part of the boards will also be used to stream NFL RedZone.
Other stadium upgrades include new ribbon boards, corner boards, and the upheaval of the north end zone.
The north end zone is my favorite part.
It includes party cabanas, rail seating, and of course the pools. The team has already started marketing the cabana tickets to corporate groups – 50 tickets for $12,500 a game. As Lamping puts it: EverBank Field will be “Uniquely Jacksonville.” What’s better than drinking a beer in a pool with live football right in front of your face?
Soak this beauty in. I’ll wait.
The new north end zone will replace about 9,500 seats and eliminate a majority of the tarps. When this up-and-coming team starts competing, there’s no doubt in my mind the remaining two tarps at the west corners of the stadium will also be eliminated.
Other upgrades include on-field seating and a table option in the club seats. Speaking of club seats, check out the next thing on Shad Khan’s list. When you’re done with that, check out this killer concept for dealing with the Florida heat.
These upgrades aren’t just about the Jaguars, either. The City wants to attract larger concerts, more soccer and, above all, a college football national championship game. On Saturday, more than 51,000 people showed up to help cheer on the US Men’s National Soccer team as they took on Nigeria – the last stop before the World Cup. More events like this are in the pipeline.
The stadium upgrades will be unveiled in late July during the Fulham – D.C. United friendly, along with a season-ticket holder-only Carrie Underwood concert. Jaguar fans will get their first look during Weeks 1 and 4 of the preseason, and then Week 3 of the regular season.
If your team is scheduled to play the Jags this season, do yourself a favor and go see these massive boards. Just be prepared to go full Duval if you’re sitting in the north end zone.