JACKSONVILLE – Mark Lamping put it simply, succinctly.
The response when people see the just-finished US Assure Clubs at EverBank Field? The very first gut reaction?
"People have been blown away," Lamping, the Jaguars' President, said Monday morning.
Of course. Yet again.
Isn't that how it seems? That every year for the past few years there has been something new and really, really cool at the 'Bank? That every year renovations routinely exceed the rising expectations? That every year something has blown people away?
That's indeed how it seems because that's how it has been, with the latest game-changing, eye-catching, mind-dazzling improvement to the 'Bank – the US Assure Clubs – officially being revealed Monday morning.
The clubs are what we've come to expect by now. They're what all the upgrades to the 'Bank have been since Jaguars Owner Shad Khan took over five years ago.
They're cool. They're dazzling. They're state of the art.
They're something new and once-unimaginable carved into a once-aging, dated facility that's becoming more and more of a jewel each year – and doing so before our collective eyes.
They're also yet another multi-million dollar reminder of how important this city, this fan base and this fan experience is to the franchise and its owner.
They're in at a cost of $26.6 million after 30,000 man hours put in since this past February, and their installation puts EverBank Field's capacity at 64,428. That's getting to the point where it's closer to right for this market, and getting capacity right was a big driving force in the recent stadium renovations.
They also bring the capacity of the clubs to 8,602, which Lamping said is down about 2,400 from before the renovation. That was the idea – to get capacity right – and Lamping on Monday said the Jaguars are well on pace to having the clubs sold out to season-ticket holders. That's a big thing to remember about this project.
But maybe the biggest point to know about the club renovations:
Take a look inside the newly renovated US Assure Clubs at EverBank Field.
While they're cool, and while they have reshaped and reimagined EverBank Field yet again, they're not the culmination. They're not even the peak. And here's guessing the amphitheater/flex-field project that is scheduled to be completed by next spring won't be a culmination, either.
There is no culmination to the renovations at the 'Bank.
There is no end game. There is no "peak."
No, the idea is to annually make EverBank Field better, cooler, more state-of-the-art – and that has emerged as a central theme to this organization in recent seasons. Lamping on Monday emphasized yet again that everyone in the Jaguars' organization knows that stadium renovations aren't the most important part of the Jaguars. Football and the on-field product remain Priorities No. 1, 2, 3 and so on. But the renovations represent staying relevant and staying modern – staying state-of-the-art – and without question those are priorities, too.
"When you have an aging facility, it's more important that you invest the money so the facility can evolve, so that each year fans can look forward to, 'What's the next thing that's going to happen?''' Lamping said, adding, "We think EverBank Field today is in a much better position to be able to support a sustainable, successful NFL franchise – and also attract world-class events to Jacksonville. We're in a better position to do that today than we were three years ago."
It's also something Lamping said will keep going. And going. And going.
"I don't think it should be finished," Lamping said. "I know our fans' expectations don't stop. They continue to evolve over time and it's our responsibility to ensure that we are understanding their evolving needs and that we do everything we can to meet those needs."
No, those expectations don't stop – and the Jaguars' and the city's efforts to meet them don't stop, either. Once the amphitheater/flex-field project is complete – something Lamping said he expects by around Memorial Day 2017 – Khan and the City of Jacksonville will have spent more than $170 million improving EverBank Field and its surroundings.
Video boards, locker room, training facility, spa cabanas … if you've seen those improvements of past seasons, you have an idea what you'll see when you see the clubs. Clean, shiny, open, bright, technologically modern … and maybe the coolest thing is how club's windows to the field make you feel like you're sort of outside even when you're really inside.
The fact that the East Club and West Club are both newly-renovated and state-of-the-art, but in distinctly different ways is cool too, as are the 220 televisions, the technology, the walkout patios, the new furniture, the new menu …
Well, you get the idea. And even before Lamping said it, you had the idea on Monday that Khan, the Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville had blown people away at the 'Bank yet again – with every expectation that it will happen again.
And again. And again.