Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver presented the franchise's plans for reducing the seating capacity of Alltel Stadium next season, with the strong belief that TV blackouts will become a thing of the past in Jacksonville.
"I'm not going to commit that we won't blackout a game. Our projections are conservative. We really believe we've found the right model that allows us the best chance to not blackout," Weaver told the media at a press conference late Wednesday afternoon at Alltel Stadium.
The plan Weaver and ticket director Scott Loft presented to the media will reduce Alltel's seating capacity from its current 76,877 to 67,164 for the 2005 season. That means 9,713 seats will be put out of service. Those "covered" seats are in the eight outermost upper deck sections and the 16 top rows of the north end zone in sections 220-226.
"I believe we've come up with a good downsize model that really fits our community, as to how we balance supply and demand," Weaver said of the strategy.
The Jaguars will have blacked out six of their eight home games this season. Had the current plan been in place this season, Weaver said none of the Jaguars' home games would've been blacked out. The Jaguars' current blackout number of about 59,000 will be reduced to 49,000 next season. The latter is the number of non-premium seats that will exist in Alltel Stadium next year. Only non-premium seats count toward TV blackouts.
Approximately 3,300 season ticket holders must be relocated for next season, and letters inviting them to a January relocation event were mailed on Tuesday.
"We will honor all contracts. We understand the inconvenience," Loft said. "In most cases, these seats should be closer to the 50-yard line or to the field."
Of next season's 49,000 non-premium seats, about 39,000 are already sold. The Jaguars' goal is to sell another 5,000 on a season-ticket basis, then market another 5,000 on a group-sales basis.
"Our motivation is to make our tickets scarce," said Weaver, who believes the reduced-seating strategy will, in time, create a waiting list for Jaguars tickets.
"I've known we should've done this for awhile. If I'm guilty of anything, it's that we should've done this sooner," Weaver said.
When asked if the stigma of covered seats may create a national perception that the franchise is struggling in Jacksonville, Weaver said: "I don't think so; if people understand the rationale. All the new stadiums are being built in the 65,000-66,000 range (in mid-markets), and in the 68,000-69,000 range in the large markets."
The current Alltel Stadium seating capacity requires the Jaguars to sell a season ticket to one in every 13 people in the Jacksonville market. The new plan will make it one in every 15. The NFL's big-market teams work with an average figure of one in every 82 people.
"This is a long-term decision," Weaver said.