Mayor John Peyton has become the latest public figure to urge Jaguars fans to close the gap on the team's quest to have a blackout-free season. Three days after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the issue of ticket sales in Jacksonville, Peyton met with reporters along the sideline at training camp on Thursday morning.
"We continue to focus on the remaining 4,500 or so tickets. We're convinced that we'll sell them and have a blackout-free season. We're in good position. It would be a shame not to get there. We're in the final push," Peyton said.
About 10,000 general-bowl season tickets remain to be sold to guarantee that all Jaguars home games will be shown on local television. The Jaguars have assumed responsibility for about half that amount by having moved those tickets into the "group sales" category. Peyton said the other half of the remaining tickets are "in the hands of the market."
The Jaguars are a little more than a month out from the start of the regular season, which will begin at home against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12. The Jaguars have already said the team's two preseason home games will be shown on local television, with the hope those telecasts will create excitement for the team and spur ticket sales.
"When we started, we thought it would take multiple seasons to be blackout-free. If we can get through this patch, time will solve the problem," Peyton said.
The mayor initiated the current ticket-sales push last fall when he saw the potential for empty seats being shown on national television in the team's last home game of the season, against the Indianapolis Colts. The initiative led to a "Team Teal" movement that has allowed the team to generate record-breaking new ticket sales, but sales stalled at the start of June and they remain slow as the Jaguars head toward the start of the preseason.
"Ticket (sales) is the most quantifiable way to measure support for this team," Peyton said. "If we can take that issue off the table, I think we'll be in really good shape. I would hope it would build the case for viability in Jacksonville."
Goodell delivered a frank, tough-love type of message to Jaguars fans on Monday. He challenged the market to demonstrate that last year's seven blackouts were a fluke by selling out EverBank Field this year.
"He gave it to us as we needed to hear it. I appreciated his candor," Peyton said of Goodell.
Goodell was asked if he could guarantee the team would stay in Jacksonville if it sold out all of its games. He did not reply with a yes.
"I don't know that anyone can guarantee that. An owner has that discretion," Peyton explained.
Given that owner Wayne Weaver has said he will sell the team at some point in the future, Peyton was asked if he believes Jacksonville can attract a buyer that will keep the team in Jacksonville, and if the team is facing a deadline to do so.
"I think we obviously have time. We're building a case for how this team will support this team over time. This year is one of many years in which we'll build that case," Peyton said.
"We are the landlord of a very large building," he said of the city's ownership of EverBank Field, "and we are making an effort to keep our anchor team. They create the value. The anchor tenant day after day is the Jaguars."