SOTF 2019: “The stadium has to be upgraded”

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JACKSONVILLE – Shad Khan stated the obvious.

“I think the stadium has to be upgraded; I think that is our approach,” Khan said.

The future of TIAA Bank Field wasn’t the only major topic at the 2019 State of the Franchise event Thursday – an event that marked the kickoff of the team’s 25th NFL season – but Khan and Jaguars President Mark Lamping both spent time on the issue.

Lamping, who emphasized throughout the presentation that the Jaguars’ improved local-revenue situation must continue to improve, made clear that continuing to improve the stadium was key to that initiative – and to the franchise’s financial stability.

“Certainly, I don’t think there is any reason why this stadium couldn’t be a candidate for a major renovation, and we really haven’t gotten into the details, but we do recognize that it is an issue for many of our fans,” Lamping said.

Lamping addressed the issue while speaking to reporters following his on-stage remarks, during which he noted that heat and seating in direct sunlight is a major issue for many fans during early-season games. He added that the issue could be a topic when the city and team begin discussing a new stadium lease, which could happen in the next five years.

Lamping noted during Thursday’s presentation that only two NFL teams –Buffalo and Jacksonville – currently play in stadiums that have not been built or undergone in excess of $300 million in major renovations since TIAA Bank Field opened in 1995.

“We have looked at a number of concepts,” Lamping said. “I think some of the concepts have been there. I think we have about 10 or 11 years left on our lease here, and I think as part of the lease extension we are going to determine what the stadium solution would be.

“If you are going to do something to that magnitude, you should be talking about it at least five years before you want it to be done. I would think it is not inconceivable that we will start discussions with the city, perhaps even during Mayor [Lenny] Curry’s tenure sometime over the next four years.”

The Jaguars and the City have combined for multiple upgrades to the stadium and surrounding area in Khan’s seven-plus years as owner, including: two of the world’s largest outdoor videoboards at either end of the stadium, a spa/entertainment deck in the north end zone, a total renovation of the premium seating club space, the construction of Daily’s Place Amphitheater and Dream Finder’s Homes Flex Field and renovations to the locker room and training facilities.

“If you look at all the upgrades that have happened – clubs, scoreboards, pools, Daily’s Place, we have been a big part of spending money with the city,” Khan said. “We want to continue to invest with the city to make the stadium better.”

Khan also noted that a roof isn’t the only approach to providing shade.

“I think there are many, many creative solutions,” Khan said. “There was a very creative solution with drones during a [soccer] game, kind of holding a cover up. It was very futuristic, but it could be very cost-effective only on the days you need it. I don’t know how feasible it is, but as an engineer when I saw that – that was for the World Cup in Qatar – I thought, ‘Boy, that [would] work very well for us.’ We want to look at creative solutions that are very cost-effective.”

Lamping emphasized that the hope is that the Jaguars’ stadium remains in downtown Jacksonville.

“Symbolically, keeping the stadium downtown – even if it isn’t the exact center of the community in terms of a spread of population – I think psychologically it is really important, and I think we would want to be downtown,” he said.

Lamping throughout Thursday’s event emphasized that while the Jaguars’ financial situation – which is directly tied to the stadium and to ticket sales – has improved in recent seasons, it is critical that improvement continues.

“From a commercial perspective, we are stronger than we’ve ever been,” Lamping said. “We set records [in 2018] in terms of game ticket revenue.”

Lamping said the team’s Week 3 victory over New England last season set a franchise-revenue record and emphasized that Kenny Chesney’s show this past Saturday set a single-night Daily’s Place revenue record. He said, too, that a planned Rolling Stones concert is expected to be second only to Super Bowl XXXIX in terms of revenue generated at TIAA Bank Field in a single-day event.

But he also noted that the Jacksonville market size remains a challenge, saying that while the New England game was a franchise record it was the 161st highest-revenue NFL game in the United States last season.

“Great progress, but we have to make sure that we don’t lose sight that we’re competing in league that’s made up of competitors in 30 other markets,” Lamping said. “We’re competing with the teams in those markets, so we have to be competitive in terms of how we deal with our issues.”

Images from the annual State of the Franchise presentation.

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