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Finally, a hot ticket

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All of a sudden, the Jaguars are a hot ticket. It's the best thing to happen to this franchise since, well, Fred Taylor scored the winning touchdown in Tennessee this past Sunday.

Yeah, good things seem to be happening rather quickly and routinely for the Jaguars these days. But the run of ticket sales the Jaguars have experienced this week is not being taken for granted. Jack Del Rio may not want to celebrate his team's 3-0 record, but the Jaguars ticket office is doing cheetah-flips over the 2,200 tickets they sold on Tuesday.

It marks the second-best ticket-sales day in Jaguars history, behind only the game-day sales for the Denver game of two weeks ago. When the sun rose over Alltel Stadium this morning, non-premium-seat tickets remaining for Sunday's game against Indianapolis numbered 8,400, approximately.

Hot ticket? It is for Jacksonville, which is attempting to overcome a major blackout problem that has cost the team exposure in its home market. Six of the team's eight home games were blacked out last season. This year's home-opener was blacked out, marking the second consecutive home-opener not to have appeared on Jacksonville televisions.

Can the Jaguars beat the blackout this Sunday?

"It's going to be close," ticket director Scott Loft said.

The 72-hour blackout deadline is set for Thursday at one p.m. If ticket sales continue to spike on Wednesday, the Jaguars are likely to ask the league for a 24-hour extension, which would give the team until Friday to post the "soldout" sign.

"We're getting to the point that the only seats left are going to be $45-$95, and that's going to be the challenge, selling the more expensive seats. We had about 4,000 tickets left for Denver, and they were almost exclusively $65 and $95," Loft said.

So, what's going on here? Why is the team all of a sudden a hot ticket?

The answer, of course, is seemingly very simple: The team is winning and winning sells, right?

Sure it does, but the answer really isn't that simple. Truth be known, a year of blackouts has finally started to sink in on Jaguars fans. The days of giving the product away are over. That's why the Jaguars are a hot ticket.

"I don't dispute what you're saying," Loft said. "I would argue that of the 8,000 tickets we sold the week of the Denver game, 4,000 were sold after the blackout was announced."

If this was 2002, when the team was in a give-away program with a local food chain, the Jaguars would still not be a hot ticket this week. Fans wouldn't be flocking to Alltel Stadium or to jaguars.com to buy tickets, they'd be driving to the food store to stock up on snacks to eat while watching Sunday's game on TV.

In 1998 and '99, when attendance started to drop, fans did the same thing. They had come to expect that Wayne Weaver would work out some kind of deal with a local business to purchase the remaining tickets. Why buy them? Just wait, it'll be on TV.

Not any longer. The message now is: You gotta buy a ticket if you wanna see the game. At least, you have to buy a ticket to be sure you're going to see the game.

"It's the first or second-largest source of income with every team in the league," Loft says of ticket sales. "Though some would like to think this is a municipal ownership, it is a business."

All indications are the Jaguars are going to be a player in this year's AFC South title race. "If we stay at the top of the division, people will want to come out and see the team play," Loft predicted.

And that means there will have to be more hot-ticket weeks, because the Jaguars average between 13,000-15,000 non-premium-seat tickets remaining for each of their remaining home games except the Pittsburgh game, which has about 8,000 remaining non-premium tickets.

"We have made significant changes to the stadium, pricing and payment ability, to give ourselves a chance to be successful when the team turns the corner. Now we're seeing that," Loft said.

Yeah, it appears the team has turned the corner. Has tickets sales turned that corner, too?

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