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State of the Franchise: Growing - with more work ahead


JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars are getting more stable by the year.

Jaguars President Mark Lamping said while that's important and positive, continuing to build that stability is critical to the franchise – as is continuing to grow financially.

That was a major theme during the Jaguars' 2016 State of the Franchise Friday, with Owner Shad Khan and Lamping unveiling designs/details for three major projects planned for EverBank Field, as well as the team's 2016 ticket pricing plans. The upgrades include:

*Redesigning, renovating and reimagining the US Assure Clubs.

*A covered, climate-controlled, multipurpose flex field at the south end of the stadium that will serve as an indoor practice facility and host other events.

*A 5,500-seat amphitheater at the south end of the stadium that not only is designed to draw concerts, shows and events to Jacksonville, but that can be used during events inside EverBank Field.

"The NFL is very, very powerful and I think now globally you're going to see where various governments would want to have NFL presence, what it draws, what it stands for," Khan said shortly after an hour-and-half presentation inside the Terrance Suite at EverBank Field.

"I want to harness that for Jacksonville and get it to the next level."

The renovations were approved by the Jacksonville City Council on December 8.

"We're really excited about it because we believe it can create a new revenue stream for the Jaguars that can begin to help offset some of the market realities given the size of Jacksonville," Lamping said.

Lamping said the upgrades are part of Khan's long-term commitment to the Jaguars and Jacksonville.

"The alternative to that is unacceptable," Lamping said. "The alternative is to invest nothing and just ride it out. This franchise would slowly deteriorate to a point of instability that its future in Jacksonville would be challenged.

"If you're committed to keeping Jacksonville an NFL franchise, you have to invest and you have to be aggressive. We're fortunate to have an owner that sees it that way."

As was the case in the first three State of the Franchise addresses, financial stability – and achieving that in a unique, small market – also was a major topic Friday, which meant local revenue again was a major topic. Local revenue is critical to all NFL teams' financial viability and a team's ranking is a measure of its financial strength within the NFL.

View photos from the 2016 State of the Franchise presentation at EverBank Field.

"As our local revenue grows, so grows our stability here in Jacksonville," Lamping said.

Lamping said Friday the team for the first time in many years enhanced its position in that area, increasing its local revenue to 26th in the NFL in 2014 from 30th in 2013. That's the most recent data available from the league in that area.

"We've turned the corner; we're up to 26th," Lamping said. "We don't think for a moment we should just start coasting now. Now is the time to be more aggressive.

Lamping said that's the reason for the ticket price increase.

"There is a direct correlation between the average ticket price and the amount of local revenue you generate," Lamping said. "That's not something you should find earth-shattering, but it's critically important."

Under the 2016 pricing plan, five percent of seats will decrease in price, 10 percent will be unchanged and 46 percent will be unchanged if renewed before the early renewal deadline. Another 15 percent, located within the upgraded clubs, will increase – though those increases will reduce if renewed early. The remaining 24 percent of the seats that increased in price were not occupied by Season Ticket Members in 2015.

The effective increase in average ticket price will be 3.6 percent. Lamping said the team also will continue to employ variable, dynamic individual-ticket pricing to take advantage of high interest in traditionally popular opponents such as Pittsburgh, Chicago, the New York Giants, etc.

"It's not only necessary," Lamping said. "We think it's the best plan."

The Jaguars currently have the fifth-least expensive tickets overall in the NFL and the second least-expensive general admission tickets. Lamping said that's good for fans, but not as good for the stability of the franchise.

"We need to find the right balance," Lamping said. "We need to find creative ways of getting where we need to be."

Also at the State of the Franchise Friday:

*Lamping said the annual home game at Wembley Stadium in London remained critical to local revenue, providing the equivalent of nearly two home games (1.8). "Our commitment to London is paying great dividends, and it's a serious commitment," Lamping said, also emphasizing the importance of continuing to play a game there. "Our involvement in London makes us more stable in Jacksonville. … If London is that important to the Jaguars, we better make sure we protect our position in London. If the Jaguars lose our position in London, it makes the Jaguars less stable in Jacksonville." …

*Lamping said while the club renovations are expected to be complete this summer, no completion date yet has been set for the amphitheater and the flex field. Renovations on the US Assure Clubs began early this month, with the design expected to be finalized in the next 30 days. "We're getting close to a final design," he said. "What we showed today is close to what we think we'll end up with. But until we have the design finalized, which we certainly think will happen in the next few weeks, then we'll have the construction scheduled." …

*Lamping and Khan both said the amphitheater/flex field projects don't mean the end of the Shipyards Proposal made last year. "The interest has not expired; I think we're still very much interested," Khan said, with Lamping adding, "There are things that sort of have to happen in a normal sequence. It's a very complicated project, the Shipyards. It's failed multiple times already and you have to get it right this time. Having a project that starts and fails is much worse than having a project be delayed and started. … Is it our number one priority right now? It's not, because we didn't think it is something that we'd be able to start working on this offseason. Shad was of the belief that we need to keep doing stuff. We can't stop. So the alternative was wait for the Shipyards and what that's going to take, although it's a transformative project, or begin moving forward on some of these other projects that can help us.  It won't be of the magnitude of the Shipyards, but important nonetheless."  …

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