JACKSONVILLE – Part 2 of Jaguars President Mark Lamping's Q&A with jaguars.com on his one-year anniversary with the team:
Q. The proposed video boards is an overriding area of interest right now. What should fans realize about the importance of the issue?
A. Fans today follow the game much differently than fans in the past. Technology has evolved significantly over the years. Being connected is an integral part of how fans consume the National Football League. The primary conduit that we have within the stadium to be able to deliver the content our fans want, whether it's multiple replays, game action from throughout the NFL, fantasy football stats, in-game stats – the list goes on and on – the platform we have to deliver that content is the scoreboards. What we have to make sure is that we're not expecting fans to sacrifice anything when they choose to go to a game as opposed to sitting at home, watching the game on television with their laptop on their lap. There's also an aspect of the scoreboard that it's something we can do to separate the stadium from every other NFL stadium.
Q. It's not always easy to find that sort of an impact point…
A. It's not always easy to find an action you can take that will be noteworthy and newsworthy on a national and international basis that at the same time is right on in terms of dealing with issues that we have as it relates to our fan experience. We could build the world's largest windscreen to provide shade on the stadium, and that would be very newsworthy. It would probably cost $500 million to do it, but it wouldn't do a darned thing as it relates to the fan's ability to connect with the NFL the way they consume the NFL today versus just 10 years ago.
Q. Which is the reason for the timing of the issue.
A. It's our responsibility to initiate the debate. If we wait for somebody else to do it, who knows what the timetable will be? The reality is we have a stadium that's 20 years old. The stadium is functioning adequately. The demands of our fans and the sophistication of our fans have changed drastically over 20 years. If we don't keep up, we're falling behind. We can't afford to do that in a market this size, because if we do, then we put the franchise at risk.
Q. And fans showing they want this can help this happen.
A. Absolutely. The reality is while Jaguars games are the most frequent events that occur at EverBank Field, we have a very historic football game that has a great tradition that certainly predates the Jaguars in the Gator Bowl. We have a very, very important civic event that is one of the highlights of the Jacksonville sports calendar, and that's the Florida-Georgia game. We have soccer. We have lacrosse events. We have the monster truck rally. All of those represent big events that bring dollars into the community that wouldn't be there but for these events. If we want to continue to use sports and events as a way to deliver economic development and growth here in Jacksonville, we have to have a building that supports that. There is the possibility, probably not in the next few years, but we are certainly in the geographic locale that would work for the BCS Championship Game. But to think we're going to earn a game like that without something very special being identified with this stadium, I think we're being naïve. The most visible thing when you go into a stadium – off the field – are the video boards. That's where people's attention is focused because that's where they get their information. To expect that you're going to get a game of that magnitude by having video boards that are undersized and out of date from a technology standpoint, it's just not going to happen.
Q. Are fans with whom you speak grasping the message about London, that the series there strengthens the Jaguars rather than weakens them?*
A.I talk to the people at the NFL office all the time, and I was just in London last week, so we're in the middle of this. This is such a unique situation where from the very beginning when this was announced, it was a consensus of state government, local government, local chamber of commerce and major sponsors of the Jaguars endorsing this idea. I've gotten about 10 times more questions from Jaguars fans in Jacksonville about how I get tickets to the game in London than, 'Why are you playing the game?' But we do go to great lengths and we continue to go to great lengths with our fan forums to ensure our fans understand that the strategy is to make the Jaguars stronger in Jacksonville and to do it in a way that we can balance the financial needs of the franchise with the financial capabilities of our fans. The current model of playing one game in London and nine games in Jacksonville is a stronger financial model for the Jacksonville Jaguars. As such, it helps strengthen the Jaguars in Jacksonville, not the opposite.
Q. You said recently that it was important for Jaguars fans to stop looking over their shoulder when it comes to the franchise's stability. Is that still an important message?
A. I sort of throw that into the same basket that I threw blackouts in earlier this year. Why is everybody talking about blackouts? People talk about blackouts because people bring them up. The reality is we're not going to talk about blackouts anymore because they're not relevant in this market. The good news is there haven't been a lot of questions about blackouts lately. As far as the location of the franchise, there is not one thing that is happening locally – not one thing Shad Khan has done – that suggests anything other than we're doing everything to make us stronger here in Jacksonville. The people who second-guess about the Jaguars are from outside the marketplace. Those are the same people who say we can't sell tickets and that we might as well tarp the whole stadium. It's uninformed speculation. We can't control it, so let's stop talking about it. I don't even hear it that much from our fans. It's speculation outside the marketplace. Some of it was self-inflicted. A few years ago, when the message was, 'This community better get behind the team because if you don't, this may not be an NFL team… ' The premise of Team Teal was wonderful, but to believe you can have a sustainable business model based on making people feel guilty if they don't buy tickets, that doesn't work. They sold 10,000 additional season tickets in 2010. A large percentage of them were gone in 2011. At the end of the day, people can't be guilted into supporting the Jaguars any more than they can be guilted into shopping at a certain mall or going to a certain restaurant. It doesn't work. What we need to do is make sure we have a value proposition to our fans that they're proud to support and that we're smart enough that if the market does have limitations that we find ways to mitigate the impact of those. That's why we're trying to grow regionally. That's why we're going to London. We generate significantly more revenue in London than we do one game here. To get that same one-game impact, what do we do? Go to our fans and say, 'We're going to double the price of your tickets for a game?' Whether it's London, regional growth or forcing the issue on stadium improvements, those are things we have to do.