JACKSONVILLE – These are unique, difficult times.
That's reality these days with life, health and sports – very much including the NFL and the Jaguars. But Jaguars President Mark Lamping said the difficulty won't last forever.
"These are very abnormal times, but things will get back to normal," Lamping told jaguars.com Monday when discussing team operations as relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"They absolutely will get back to normal."
Toward that end, Lamping said the Jaguars and Bold Events are keeping operations "as normal as possible" while preparing for a full 2020 Jaguars season and a full events calendar at TIAA Bank Field and Daily's Place – and most importantly in the present, Lamping said, assisting in local COVID-19 relief.
"There are a lot of people who are focused on a lot more important things than Jaguars football," Lamping said. "We talk about football as a family, that the Jaguars are a family and that we're a family with our fans and our community. Now's really the time to show that."
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan last week personally donated $1 million to Northeast Florida response to the crisis, and Lamping on Monday said the team and partners such as Daily's have combined to purchase more than $25,000 in gift cards to distribute to local medical workers, among others.
"We've put all these gift cards together and we're distributing them to the unsung heros, people who are working day-in, day-out in the hospitals to keep us all healthy – and putting their health on the line. …" he said. "We're doing what we can to communicate with our fans, but at the same time knowing we have a real responsibility – not only to our employees, but this community."
Lamping, who said Jaguars employees – like all NFL team employees – are currently working remotely, said the team remains focused on preparing for the 2020 season with an awareness of the importance of "the role sports plays in our society."
"It's a great way for people of very diverse backgrounds to be able to gather around a single interest," Lamping said. "Very few things in this world can unite people the way that sports do. The sooner we can get back on the field, the better. In the meantime, our fans still want to be connected.
"Just as during normal time, we provide an escape from the everyday challenges we all face. We have that same opportunity today. We're fortunate that people like [General Manager] Dave Caldwell and [Head Coach] Doug Marrone and many, many of our players have been open and been able to communicate with our customers – the same thing as far as our entire business staff is concerned."
Lamping on Monday also discussed Bold Events' plans for 2020, saying that while multiple events at Daily's Place have been postponed, none have been canceled. The concert featuring Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at TIAA Bank Field also remains scheduled for Thursday, June 18.
"The musicians and touring artists are going through this for the first time as well," Lamping said. "Everyone is working together to make sure we don't eliminate content and that we don't cancel shows. We haven't had any canceled yet. It's going to make for a very crowded fall, we hope.
"But in many respects, that's what this community needs – that when we do get back to things as normal – and we will get back to normal; there's no question about that – in order to help us dig out of a little bit of a hole we've dug over the past month or so, the best way to do that is to get commerce going, to get events going, to be generating revenue, to have visitors come to Jacksonville once it's safe and get us back to where we need to be as a community."
Lamping on Monday also said preparations continue for a full 2020 NFL season, as well as for long-term investments such as the Lot J development in downtown Jacksonville
"There's no question about that," he said. "We'll have a normal season. We will continue our normal investment patterns, whether that means investments in Lot J or in other investments in the community through our foundation.
"It's an unusual time. None of us can predict the future. All of us have the responsibility to be as flexible as we can. I think it's been a great reminder of first and foremost what our responsibilities are to our families and if you're a company, to your employees – but at the same time, the role that sports can play in the community.
"I know all of us really miss sports right now and the role it plays and can't wait for things to get back to some semblance of normality."