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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 23, 200312:00 PM EST

Service key, says Jags ticket director

by: Bailey White

by Bailey White

Staff Writer

As the Jacksonville Jaguars start over with a new head coach, there’s also a fresh face in the front office, preparing new marketing strategies and lower ticket prices in an effort to make the team more accessible to the people that matter most — the fans.

“We have 200,000 people watching the games from home each week,” said Scott Loft, executive director for ticket sales and services. “They’ve said they’d like to be here and we’re creating the opportunity.”

Loft brings almost 15 years of experience in ticketing and marketing with the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association to Jacksonville. He spent five years with the NHL’s Nashville Predators and nine years with the Philadelphia 76ers before joining the Jaguars.

“Their goal was to bring in someone with enough experience to evaluate the situation, but who could also come in as a neutral source,” said Loft.

Though he’s never taken a spot on the field or court, Loft was a perfect fit for the job.

“I’ve just always loved sports and I knew I wanted to be involved. I’ve never received a paycheck that wasn’t from a pro sports franchise,” said Loft, who began his career as an intern with the 76ers.

The Indianapolis native, who brought his wife Cathy and his six-year-old son Josh with him to Jacksonville, is adjusting to his new job.

“It’s been very interesting,” said Loft. “I’ve learned something different every day.”

The biggest change is in the number of games per season for each sport. In the NFL, Loft deals with 10 games, while hockey and basketball have 41.

“And that’s just the home games,” he said. “It takes a different marketing approach for how you budget and promote so many different events. I was brought in to take a look at the current situation, to analyze it and to make recommendations.”

The coaching switch didn’t really impact his plans for the upcoming season.

“This is the fifth coaching change I’ve been though,” said Loft. “It’s part of the business.”

Of course, the public has a lot of interest in the new coach — Jack Del Rio — which can’t hurt ticket sales.

“There’s already a real buzz in the community right now,” said Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver. “I’ve received hundreds of e-mails from fans saying they’ll renew their tickets.”

Weaver announced a plan Wednesday to launch a full-fledged radio, television and print advertising campaign, so Loft has his work cut out for him.

“It’s not an easy process to change everything up so quickly,” said Loft, adding that he is up to the challenge. “We’re in the top five as far as stadium capacity, and we have the second smallest market in the NFL. We could have run from the situation, but we chose to embrace it.”

In addition to an 18 percent decrease in ticket prices, fans will be able to purchase tickets through flexible, interest free payment systems and will have lower security deposits.

To find out what it would take to fill seats, Loft’s group conducted surveys, and created focus groups and found that cheaper seats were the answer.

“What we came up with most was how to pay for tickets,” said Loft, “And we really wanted to answer the fans. We’ll have 20,000 seats available for $20 or less. At that price, we’ll be competing with bowling alleys and the movies. This is obviously the right thing to do for the short term. And we think it’s the right long term decision as well.”

Fans will also notice a difference in customer service because the staff has been increased to six people.

“We’re really gearing up for sales and service,” said Loft, who oversees sales, customer service and ticket operations.

While Loft said both season and individual seats are being sold via the Internet, fans can still expect personal service.

“Every day someone from sales is available to show a ticket holder his seat,” said Loft. “And we always have the ticket window.”

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