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The world's largest scoreboards are among the improvements made at EverBank Field.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Dec. 9, 201412:00 PM EST

Jaguars at top of rankings in game-day experience after $63M in improvements

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by: David Chapman

On the field, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t scoring many points.

Off the field, they’re scoring plenty with their fans.

The NFL’s “Voice of the Fan” survey is part of the league’s effort to determine how the 32 clubs fare in game-day related metrics. The league surveys season ticket holders and single-game ticket buyers.

Through the first seven games of this season, the Jaguars rank in the top three in all eight categories. That includes first-place honors for in-game enhancements, game entertainment and ease of arriving at and departing from the stadium.

No other NFL team ranked among the top five in all eight catagories, according to the team.

“We are really seeing the positive benefits of the stadium improvements as well as the commitment to focusing on our fans’ experience,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping.

Indeed, it’s the most recent spate of improvements completed in time for the start of this year’s season that Lamping believes led to the results. That would be the $63 million in EverBank Field improvements that Lamping said has been a “great return on our investment” for the franchise and fan experience.

Taxpayers paid $43 million of those improvements, while $20 million came from team owner Shad Khan.

Those highly visible improvements included the world’s largest scoreboards and an upgraded North End Zone that has cabanas and swimming pools. In addition, there was a $4 million boost to the stadium’s WiFi system.

The results didn’t surprise John Caputo, president of the Bold City Brigade.

The brigade, a nonprofit, has about 3,000 members worldwide and 500 locally with a focus to “engage and unite Jaguars followers from all walks of life,” according to its website.

“I think it’s been an underrated game-day experience for a long time,” he said. “The Jaguars themselves have long placed

an emphasis on entertainment. … I think fans as a whole take notice.”

That entertainment includes mascot Jaxson de Ville, who regularly jumps off stadium lighting and scoreboards, and interacts with fans throughout the game. He was voted mascot of the year in a mascotinsider.com poll.

Caputo and other brigade members in the past several years have organized one trip annually for away games, visiting venues in Miami, Nashville and Washington, D.C. There are other non-organized trips, too, but Caputo said one constant conversation topic with other fans both home and away is those EverBank Field upgrades.

Tim McGugan has seen it evolve over time, too. A season ticketholder for 20 years with his family, he’s been there “since Day 1” and also is part of the brigade.

Like Caputo, he said the survey results didn’t surprise him. But the EverBank Field upgrades did, especially compared to as recently as a year ago.

“It was a whole new experience,” McGugan said. “Obviously, we want better results on the field, but going there, being engaged … it was a complete 180.”

Years ago, going to a game meant solely focusing on the game itself, he said. The additions have been another reason for fans to keep going through the lean times, until the winning ways return.

He’s been to other stadiums over the years and said when comparing the experiences, the Jaguars aren’t really lacking in any area.

The vibe from the party-laden Clevelander Deck wasn’t his style, but overall there weren’t any complaints.

Caputo said he was satisfied, too, but wished for maybe a bigger, better merchandise “megashop” that other stadiums maintain.

But that’s a small quibble.

“I think from a game-day atmosphere, it’s pretty amazing that Jacksonville is second to none,” he said.

Lamping said the survey results from the first seven games show the progress that improvements can bring and “gives us even more confidence to move forward.”

Moving forward could mean additional upgrades.

The team has applied for $1 million in annual sales tax funds for more improvements, but is in competition with groups in Daytona, Miami and Orlando for the $7 million available this fiscal year. Lamping said the team would invest another $20 million into the stadium and receive a reimbursement over the next 15 years.

“We think from our perspective, this will be just another great investment,” Lamping said.

The NFL generally releases its second half “Voice of the Fan” survey sometime after the season concludes. The information, he said, is done through a third-party company and the team isn’t allowed to release how other teams fared.

[email protected]

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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