JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser takes a look at what we learned at the 2016 State of the Franchise event at EverBank Field …
1.Shad Khan doesn't disappoint.What other overarching conclusion to draw from the 2016 State of the Franchise? A 5,500-seat amphitheater at the south end of EverBank Field? A multi-use flex field that's in fact much more than an indoor practice facility? Updated US Assure Clubs? Jaguars followers have come to expect big splashes at the State of the Franchise. Once again, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan didn't disappoint.
2.The clubs will be done by the 2016 season …Work renovating the US Assure Clubs began in January. It is expected to be completed this summer.
3. … and the timeframe for the rest is less certain.The amphitheater and the flex field are projects on a much more complex scale. As a result, those won't be done by the 2016 season. "It's a major construction project, but we don't have the timing on that until we finalize the design, which we are close to," Jaguars President Mark Lamping said, adding that work could begin on the flex field/amphitheater area in the next 30 days.
4.Florida-Georgia remains a priority. Said Lamping, "We've said consistently that the Florida-Georgia game is the single most important sporting event that happens in this community every year. … It is extremely important to the stability of the Jaguars and we're very sensitive to that. Anything that we do, we'd ensure that the seating plan allows us to be able to deliver on the city's contractual requirements to the universities."
5.The Shipyards aren't dead.The Shipyards project – a state-of-the-art proposal made by Khan and the Jaguars at the 2015 State of the Franchise – remains an objective; Khan and Lamping both said Friday the upgrades unveiled last week don't change that. "It remains just as important to us as it ever did because we believe that the ship yards will go a long way in terms of supporting the goal of having more people live, work and visit downtown Jacksonville," Lamping said, adding, "We continue to have discussions; we continue to spend money with designers. Is it our No. 1 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."
6.Local revenue remains critical …The Jaguars improved from 30th to 26th in the NFL in local revenue in 2014, the latest available data from the NFL. That's significant, because the Jaguars hadn't improved in that area in a long time – and because local revenue is critical to the team's financial stability. "We don't think for a moment we should just start coasting now," Lamping said. "Now is the time to be more aggressive."
7. … and as a result, so does London.The annual home game at Wembley Stadium in London brings in nearly two times the revenue of an EverBank Field home game. Khan and Lamping in recent years have stressed the importance of the London game to the local-revenue equation, and Lamping did so again Friday. "If the Jaguars lose our position in London, it makes the Jaguars less stable in Jacksonville," Lamping said. …
8.Ticket prices will increase.Part of increasing local revenue is increasing average ticket price. Plan for 2016: five percent of tickets in EverBank will decrease in price, 10 percent won't change, 46 percent won't change if renewed before the early renewal deadline. Another 15 percent – all in the US Assure clubs – will increase, though the increase will be reduced if renewed early. The remaining 24 percent of seats receiving a price increase were not occupied by Season Ticket Members in 2015. The average ticket increase is 3.6 percent. "I think everyone agrees, or at least the majority of people agree, that having an NFL team in Jacksonville is good for the community," Lamping said. "To be a stable team here, we have to be financially stable. To be financially stable, we have to have ticket prices that reflect what the value is."
9.A Super Bowl isn't in the plans ...Khan made clear on Friday he doesn't see Jacksonville as a possible future Super Bowl site. "What it takes to get Super Bowl, I think, is setting Jacksonville up for failure," Khan said. "I think time, money, energy is much better served on something else. The requirements now for hotel rooms and some of the other infrastructure amenities we don't have here – so let's not kid ourselves." …
10. … but the draft could be a possibility.The NFL Draft, held in New York City from 1965-2014, was held in Chicago last year – and will be held there again this year. Could the planned amphitheater make Jacksonville a future draft venue? Khan absolutely appears to think so.
11.Khan remains committed to Jacksonville. Khan addressed this a couple of times Friday, saying, "We don't want to just exist here. We want to flourish here." He also said, "I think it bears repeating that we plan to be here in Jacksonville."
12.A winning season is the objective.If Khan made clear his thoughts on Jacksonville, he made equally clear his thoughts on how the team should fare on the field next season. Asked if a winning season was a fair expectation, he said, "I think it's everybody's reasonable expectation at this point."