It’s the Question that has begun to haunt some NFL teams… Why should Joe NFL fan get off his couch and in to the stadium on game day??
Even 5 years ago, blackouts were nearly unheard of in the NFL. The economy has played a role, but let’s be honest: today’s average NFL fan now has to seriously consider if the allure of the game day experience outweighs the ease and familiarity of his favorite recliner and the big screen in his own home. It’s become a decision that isn’t as much of a no-brainer as it once was, even for the most die-hard NFL fans. Last season, the average attendance of an NFL game was 64,698, the lowest per-game number since 1998. In fact, attendance has declined by more than 4.5 percent league wide since it reached its all-time high in the 2007 season
This truth is not lost on our new owner, Shahid Kahn and his management team. Mark Lamping, the Jaguars new team President, said as much while speaking to the Orange Park Rotary Club this past Tuesday. “It has become much easier to watch games from home due to high-definiton and big-screen TV’s, as well as the growth of fantasy football. Half of us (Jacksonville-area residents) are not from Florida, and though most folks root for the Jags, many also have ties to a hometown team of their own.” When asked why there is no longer a focus on how many tickets have been sold to date, he responded that the idea of publishing numbers with a goal of selling just enough tickets to get on TV is counter-productive. “It’s been years since we have had a blackout. We won’t be having any blackouts, or talking about blackouts. It is not a civic duty to buy tickets. Our goal is to create a distinct home-field advantage, and for fans to buy tickets because they are a great value for an entertaining product. We realize we need to provide an experience that is uniquely different from watching the game at home.”
That’s just it; what can be done to improve the fan’s experience enough that watching the game at home just doesn’t compare to being at Everbank Field? That’s the question the Jaguars front office has apparently spent a very long time pondering, and what they’ve come up with may pleasantly surprise you.
Mr. Lamping pointed out there needs to be more convenient parking and bathrooms, shorter concession lines, an improved cell phone signal for making calls and checking scores and more relevant posts on the stadium’s big screen. Sounds great, doesn’t it? This, apparently, is just the beginning.
Starting this season:
- In recognition of the incredible job the team, fans and the city do in saluting our military, the Jaguars were selected to host the Thursday night game before Veteran’s day against the Colts to kick off the NFL’s “Salute to Service” week. Even better, the team is working towards this becoming an annual tradition for the city of Jacksonville.
- “Lap children” will no longer require tickets for admission, which should go a long way towards helping with the cost for a family to attend a game.
- Fans will now be allowed to bring their own food into the stadium, (so the $8 hot dogs are now “optional”!), though they will have to be in clear plastic to be made visible at the gate.
- In an effort to add some unique traditions to game day, the team is planning to have the players walk through a “gauntlet of fans” with a walkway (built with bike racks) in the South end zone for every home game… (I can’t wait!) These spots will be available to all fans attending the game, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
How’s that for improvements to the in-stadium experience?!? I, for one, will be at the game tonight; wearing teal, eating my own food and hopefully high-fiving the players as they run out of the tunnel to kick off what promises to be an exciting 2012 season!
Is the game day experience enough to get YOU off the couch?
- Brad Barrell
You can also follow me on twitter @justjaxjags