The Jaguars are making several changes that reflect the team's growing interest in Jacksonville and beyond.
On Monday, the Jaguars announced the team will wear newly designed uniforms and remove the tarps from EverBank Field. For the first time since 2005, the team will look to sell every seat in the stadium.
"It was really important to [Jaguars owner Shad Khan] that we got rid of all the tarps because, in many respects, the tarps were symbolized for people outside of Jacksonville that Jacksonville wasn’t a very good football market," Jaguars president Mark Lamping said in an interview with First Coast News on Monday.
"That was a totally unfair conclusion and our fans have been criticized unfairly and maligned with no basis for many, many years."
The Jaguars temporarily removed the tarps for the team's home playoff game against the Buffalo Bills in January. The game sold out every time the Jaguars released new tickets.
Those results impacted the organization's decision to make the tarp removal permanent.
"As we saw the reaction for the playoff game when the NFL allowed us to remove the tarps, not only were we convinced that there was demand in the marketplace but I think the stadium felt totally different that day," Lamping said. "Not only [because of] the additional people who were here but the fact that when we looked around, all we saw were rabid Jaguars fans.”
The Jaguars are off to an encouraging start with their season-ticket endeavors this offseason. The team has managed to grow its season-ticket requests by the thousands.
“It’s rather amazing,” Lamping said. “We have 5,000 requests for new season tickets and on this day a year ago, we had 700. It’s a significant increase. It reflects a lot of optimism and a lot of interest in the marketplace and it also helped us make the decision to finally have EverBank Field free of tarps.”
The Jaguars are removing the cloth from the stands and switching up the team's threads on the field. The team plans to unveil new uniforms in April.
Jacksonville's leadership group decided to shake things up because the team had the option to make a change. Much like the team's reworked football regime that was established last year, the Jaguars are hoping the change will be a good thing for their brand and fan base.
“We have a great partnership with Nike,” Lamping said.
“Nike really takes a real lead on the process. There’s experts [with] the National Football League who assist the clubs and we have people here within the organization. Shad, of course, leads the effort, but Tom Coughlin was very much involved. It’s something we’re very much excited about. We know sometimes change is a good thing. We hope our fans agree, I think they will.”
The Jaguars' success last season has helped the team grow its fan base. Instead of leading with Khan or Coughlin during marketing campaigns, the team is quick to highlight its growing list of talented players.
“We know we’re making progress when we don’t have to feature Shad [in ads] anymore,” Lamping said.
“We know we’re making progress when we don’t have to focus on the leaders off the field, but rather focus on the leaders on the field.”
Another change for the Jaguars this upcoming season is their strong home schedule. The team will host the likes of the New England Patriots, the New York Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins.
“It’s a very strong home schedule – including our three division games – and those division opponents are going to be much tougher than they were this [past] year,” Lamping said. “This should be a very competitive division, which should make those home games important.”
The Jaguars will also face off against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, in London. That game will serve as a significant opportunity for the Jaguars, as they look to expand their brand nationally and globally.
“We don’t set the schedule and this will be the first time a defending Super Bowl champion has played in London," Lamping said.
"What we do in London is very important to our results here in Jacksonville. The better we do in London, the stronger we’ll be here in Jacksonville. That’ll be a very big game. Obviously, there’s probably a lot of fans who wish that game would have happened here, but we still have a very strong home schedule here and we have to balance the two.”
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter: @Mike_E_Kaye.