ORLANDO--The Jaguars are vowing to protect their fans' turf, but efforts will be made at the NFL owners meetings this week in Orlando to take that turf from Jaguars fans who are slow to renew their season tickets.
"We've turned down requests for over a thousand season tickets (from ticket brokers). We believe these (tickets) are for the people of Jacksonville," Jaguars senior vice president/business development Tim Connolly said.
Jaguars fans remember the sight of thousands of Steelers fans waving yellow towels in Alltel Stadium two years ago. Though Connolly is doing his best to keep Steelers fans out of Alltel Stadium next fall, Steelers owner Dan Rooney is expected to seek legislation this week that will forbid home teams from discriminating against out-of-town fans attempting to purchase tickets.
Connolly's plan for keeping Steelers fans out of Alltel Stadium next fall is to sell-out Alltel to Jaguars fans, but renewals are lagging. The Jaguars have renewed about 60 percent of their season-ticket base as a second deadline approaches.
"I want 80 percent renewal and I want 90 percent renewal eventually. This market has to find out if it wants to support an NFL franchise," Connolly said.
The deadline for renewing tickets was March 12, but the Jaguars have extended it to April 19. The team has phoned about 10,000 of the team's 11,000 season-ticket accounts from last season, reminding fans of the renewal deadline.
"Our message is that on April 19 we go to relocation, meaning you've lost the rights to your seats. If they don't have their check in by the 19th, they will have lost their seat. Do yourself a favor and renew your ticket because as soon as we have a waiting list, your ticket will have value," Connolly said.
While he waits for those renewals, Connolly continues to defend his season-ticket accounts' seats. The Jaguars' 2006 schedule is so attractive that brokers are willing to buy season tickets for eight games so they might have tickets for four games: Steelers, Patriots, Giants and Cowboys.
"We've literally told brokers no. We're not going to let our seats go to brokers in other cities. They'll be gone in two days if we let them loose. Twenty thousand will be gone to Steelers fans in 3-4 days. I'm not letting brokers in to get them until our people have drunk from the trough," Connolly added.
Steelers fans have been the targets of home teams in recent years. Home teams have raised prices for Steelers games or required fans to buy tickets to three games to get a ticket to the Steelers game. Late last season, Vikings coach Mike Tice was critical of Vikings fans for selling their tickets to Steelers fans. In last year's playoffs, Indianapolis made an emotional, e-mail appeal to its fans to not sell their tickets to Steelers fans.
Connolly knows the challenge he's facing and it could become especially daunting at the owners meetings.