JACKSONVILLE – A little less than two months in, all is well.
That’s how Jaguars President Mark Lamping sees the franchise’s major offseason off-field objective – the construction and installation of the state-of-the-art video scoreboards and the entertainment viewing area at EverBank Field.
“We’re right on schedule,” Lamping said this week on Jaguars.com LIVE!, which airs each Wednesday at noon.
Lamping called the $63 million enhancements “a real game-changer.”
“As great as the renderings look and what our loyal fans have seen, the actual impact of it is going to be well beyond what anyone can imagine,” he said.
Lamping, who soon will enter his third year with the Jaguars, said as much as the idea behind the project was to enhance fans’ in-game experience, it also was to give EverBank Field a distinguished look that defines Jacksonville.
“It’s going to be a total transformation of EverBank Field,” he said.
Lamping said work is projected to be completed by mid-July, with a game later that month featuring Fulham Football Club -- Jaguars Owner Shad Khan’s English Premier League soccer team – expected to be the first event in the renovated facility. Lamping said demolition in the North End Zone is scheduled to begin next week, which will be the first significant indication for the public.
“We’ve encountered some great things so far in the process, and we’ve had some tougher obstacles we needed to clear,” he said. “We had some subsurface issues that took us a while to work through. We’ve completed that and all of the pilings are complete.”
Lamping oversaw the construction and operation of MetLife Stadium during his four years as the Chief Executive Officer of New Meadowlands Stadium Company.
“I don’t get excited or lose sleep over any little issue we encounter,” he said, noting that Elkins Constructors of Jacksonville and Hunt Construction in Indianapolis – one of the nation’s top baseball and football stadium construction companies – are working together on the project.
“While this isn’t rebuilding a stadium, it’s a major renovation around a building that’s 20 years old. I have 1,000 percent confidence that we’ve assembled an outstanding team. We’ve got a great group of people who don’t get too excited when you encounter little problems; you just figure a way to work through them.”
Lamping said a benefit of the project remains the elimination of tarps in EverBank’s North End Zone, and he said tarps in the east upper deck likely will be eliminated. He said efforts will be made to as well to eliminate the impact of tarps on the west side of the stadium.
“We didn’t go the project to get rid of the tarps, but it’s a great side benefit,” he said.
Also on Wednesday Lamping:
*Discussed renderings recently revealed depicting a retractable roof on EverBank Field. Lamping said while the project won’t occur in the next year or two, he said it is a possible solution to the issue of sun on EverBank’s east side. “The way to deal with that, given that the structure of the stadium is still relatively good, is to try to bring shade to that side of the stadium,” he said. “One way to do that would be to bring in a retractable roof.” Lamping said construction techniques have developed in recent years enough that there are affordable solutions. “Our belief is that the best stadiums are the stadiums that continue to evolve, that evolve with the needs of our fans,” he said. “Is it something that’s a possibility? It most certainly is. Is it something that’s going to happen in the next couple of years? No. But in order to extend the useful life of EverBank Field, we think it’s a good thing for us to be focused on. But we have to figure out the right thing to do and most importantly, how do we finance it?”
*Lamping said he is confident the video scoreboard/entertainment deck project will give the stadium a decided Jacksonville look. “One of the real objectives is to have a stadium people can clearly identify as being the football stadium in Jacksonville,” he said. “Right now, there’s nothing within the stadium itself that’s distinct and legitimately a reflection of the community. That’s why we always felt integrating water somehow into the renovations is important. It helps gives the stadium a personality and an identity that’s legitimately Jacksonville. One of the greatest things about this community is the water – the St. John’s River, the ocean, the beaches. Water is a big part of who we are.”…
*Lamping said playing a home game in London proved a good strategy this past season, saying the team’s popularity in the United Kingdom rose from 31st to ninth among NFL teams, and that the revenue from the game helped the team increase local revenue for the year. The Jaguars are scheduled to play a home game at Wembley Stadium each season through 2016. Lamping said the City of Jacksonville, Mayor’s Office, the City Council President and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce all “worked extremely hard and were very productive in terms of using the platform for tourism and economic development. We’ve just scratched the surface, but it was a very positive first year.” Lamping said the primary benefit remains that the team is a stronger franchise in Jacksonville because of the London game….