JACKSONVILLE – They're beyond big, and they will be game-changing.
And yes, Jaguars President Mark Lamping said this week, the answer to the biggest question fans seem to have these days about the state-of-the-art video boards and other ongoing EverBank Field renovations is a definite and resounding yes.
Will it all be done on time? On that issue, Lamping left no doubt.
"It will get done by July 15," he said.
Lamping discussed the ongoing renovation project twice this week during two behind-the-scenes, hard-hat tours with local media at EverBank, discussing the details of the construction and the long-term vision behind the $63 million in upgrades.
The Jaguars plan to unveil the boards July 26 as part of a three-part “mega-event” at EverBank with the video board unveiling, a soccer friendly between D.C. United and Fulham Football Club and a concert featuring country music superstar Carrie Underwood.
The event is free to season-ticket holders.
At its core, Lamping said the upgrades are a way to address an issue facing many NFL teams – i.e., how to ensure fans attending games have a better experience than they could have at home. That's an issue that has come to the fore in recent seasons with the rising popularity and advancing technology of high-definition television and home entertainment.
"We're making sure when you come to EverBank Field for a game, you know you're getting an experience that's not the same experience you're getting at home," Lamping said.
Lamping said that means not only ensuring the video boards are stunning, record-breaking and high-profile, but ensuring the content is compelling. That means timely highlights of Jaguars games, as well as airing the NFL's RedZone channel. Anything to ensure fans at the stadium don't miss what they could view at home.
Lamping said the size of the video boards and the technology will not only allow each board to operate separately, but for the boards to alternate between showing, for instance, one highlight across an entire end zone board or several different pieces of content on a board simultaneously.
"It's going to be spectacular," Jaguars senior vice president of fan engagement Hussain Naqi said. "Jaguars (Owner) Shad (Khan) gave us the charge that whatever we do with the boards is absolutely cutting edge. We've taken the view that we should take a cinematic approach to this. We're trying to add some dimensions to it.
"You'll have the 'Wow' factor, but the meat and potatoes of what you need to know about the football game and the out of town games at the same time."
Lamping said the high number of Jaguars fans and Jacksonville residents who have moved from other NFL markets also plays into the approach, with Jacksonville being one of the NFL's most transient markets.
The rise in popularity of fantasy football and smart phones plays a role in the moves, too. Fans expect fantasy news quickly, and updates will be a major part of the EverBank Field in-game experience.
"The content that is important to you at home you will get at the stadium," Lamping said. "We have enough inventory, a large enough video board, that we can provide more information to our fans. We can provide it to our fans on a real-time basis and hopefully give our fans an experience where they aren't spending most of the game staring at their smart phone."
Lamping said the video boards will be more than just highlights, with the plan being to have exclusive pre-game, in-game and postgame broadcasts featuring a host, analyst and sideline reporter.
"They'll get to do some pretty cool stuff you can't get if you're at home," Lamping said, adding that the upgrades provide premium seating, which in turn provides a means of increasing local revenue without raising ticket prices across the board.
"We have to get creative in those terms," Lamping said.
That creativity is what led to the interactive North End Zone, which will feature two pools – each of which is 15 feet by 12 feet and three-and-a-half feet deep – and a party deck in the North end zone. It also will feature 20 cabanas – eight spa cabanas seating 50 people each and 12 party cabanas seating 20 each on a higher level. The Jaguars are also offering field-level seats and bar-rail seats.
"It's a bit of a misnomer that this is a completely exclusive area," Naqi said. "There are products for groups, and products for individual tickets. We've actually sold out of our bar-rail seating and we're starting a waiting list on that, but in the non-group area and non-bar-rail seats area, it's open to the public. If you have a ticket to the game, you can come up here. It will be a full-on party atmosphere. It will be rocking and rolling up here."
The idea behind the cabana/pool based theme was to give EverBank Field a regional feel. Northeast Florida is water-based, Lamping said, so why not EverBank Field?
"We want to put something in the stadium that makes it distinctive – not only distinctive, but legitimately distinctive for this part of the country," Lamping said. "Water is a big part of what we're all about here. Water's a big part of the Florida lifestyle, and a big part of what we do here. The whole feel of the stadium will change.
"We're trying to make it distinctive so that when people see a game it underlies what a special place Jacksonville, North Florida and Southern Georgia happens to be."
Elkins Construction, a longtime construction company in Jacksonville, has partnered on the project – which began just after the 2013 season – with the preeminent stadium construction company in the world, Hunt Construction of Indianapolis.
"A lot of progress has been made in a short amount of time," Lamping said. "Because we have the best people, it's going to get done on time – and under budget."