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Alltel seat covering

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Weaver will bring Alltel down to size

Second-smallest market to trim 9,713 seats next season, brighten blackout picture

By BART HUBBUCH

The Times-Union

Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver unveiled a plan Wednesday that will cover almost 10,000 seats at Alltel Stadium for the team's home games starting next season.

Saying "our building is just too large,'' Weaver announced that 9,713 seats will be covered every game for at least the next two seasons in hopes of eliminating local television blackouts that have plagued the Jaguars the past two years.

The Jaguars will cover the four corner sections of the stadium's upper deck and 16 rows of seven sections in the north end zone to reduce their listed capacity to 67,164.

Setting aside nearly 5,000 seats reserved each game for military personnel and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Weaver's plan will reduce the number of tickets the team can sell to 62,800 (49,000 non-premium seats and 13,800 premium seats).

"I've known that we should have done this for a while, and I've been reluctant to do it," Weaver said at a stadium news conference. "If I'm guilty of anything, it's not doing it sooner. We probably would have done it a little sooner if not for the Super Bowl coming [in February]."

Weaver said the decision to cover seats would be firm at least through 2006 but that he "might revisit it in three to five years.

"This is not something we're going to do for one season, then come back [the following] year and take the covers off," Weaver said. "This is a long-term decision. We want to build a waiting list and balance supply and demand, and we feel this gives us the best chance to do that."

The move greatly increases the Jaguars' chances of having most, if not all, home games shown on local television because it reduces their blackout number to 49,000 non-premium seats per game from the current 59,000.

The Jaguars had six of their eight regular-season home games blacked out in 2003, and Weaver said they will have the same number blacked out this year. If the Jaguars had covered seats this season, Weaver said no games would have been blacked out.

"This doesn't guarantee that we're going to have all the games lifted for blackouts, but it certainly leads us in the right direction,'' said Scott Loft, the Jaguars' executive director of ticket sales and service. "The size we have [starting next year] is the right one.''

The Jaguars' immediate issue with the plan is dealing with the 1,200 season-ticket buyers with contracts beyond this season whose total of 3,300 seats will have covers placed over them starting next year.

Loft said the team mailed those ticketholders an invitation to an "exclusive event'' in January where they will choose their new seats. Weaver said the affected ticketholders will pay the existing price through the end of their contract, though their new seats will be better than before.

But once their contracts expire, Weaver said those ticketholders will have to pay the higher price for their seats.

"We think there is going to be a scarcity [in the future], and we believe they will pay the higher price,'' Weaver said.

Weaver said the decision was made to bring Alltel Stadium's capacity more in line with the size of the stadiums built in the NFL -- roughly 65,000-68,000 -- since the Gator Bowl was renovated in 1994.

Weaver also said his goal was to make the capacity appropriate for Jacksonville's status as the league's second-smallest market.

"[The new capacity] really fits our community in terms of how we balance supply and demand," Weaver said.

Loft said the Jaguars are confident of reaching the 49,000-seat blackout figure because they already have 39,000 season tickets committed for next year and have averaged 9,000 in new season-ticket sales each of the past three years.

The team is so confident, Loft said, that season-ticket sales would be cut off at 44,000, with the remaining 5,000 reserved for group sales.

Weaver said he has not decided whether to put advertisements on the seat coverings, which will be designed by an outside firm.

"We're certainly not going to make it like a billboard on I-95," Weaver said. "We're going to do it tastefully. It'll enhance the look of the stadium."

Ticket availablity

Projected 2005 non-premium seat inventory:

Non-premium seats 49,000

Committed for 2005 39,000

*Group tickets sold per game 5,000

*Available 5,000

*Available for sale per game 0

*If 5,000 additional season tickets are sold and 5,000 group tickets are sold, no single-game tickets will be available for the 2005 season. The Jaguars averaged approximately 10,000 single-game tickets per game during the 2004 season.

Source: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars seating by the numbers

76,877: Alltel Stadium seating capacity for Jaguars games this season.

67,164: Next season's capacity.

59,000: Non-premium seats Jags must sell this season to avoid a blackout.

49,000: Non-premium seats Jags must sell next season to avoid a blackout.

9,713: Seats Jaguars will cover up.

3,300: Seats held by season ticket holders that must be relocated for next season.

5: Blackouts so far this season. Final home game is also expected to be blacked out.

0: Blackouts if this season were played under new seating capacity, the team said.

53145_400.jpg

Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver explains a plan to cover almost 10,000 seats in Alltel stadium next season in an effort to remedy broadcast blackouts.

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I'm a season ticket holder from Atlanta...and I think my seat is being covered up. Hmm.

Jacksonville is getting a black eye from the local press over this - they associate blackouts with lack of fan support, and that simply isn't true - at least not this year. The Jags rank 13th in attendance, with almost 70,000 per game.

Even back in 1993, when Weaver did a fantastic job of selling the NFL on Jacksonville's passion for football, he realized that a 76,000 stadium was too large for the market. The city balked, because a large facility was required to host the Florida-Georgia Game. And maybe a lot of us (including Weaver) were fooled duing the Jags' early years, when the novelty of a new team and the fast start led to six straight years of sellouts in a large facility.

Well, the novelty has worn off, and the team has suffered a four year losing streak. It's only natural that fan support should fall off too. What we saw in the early years is the potential of the kind of support Jacksonville can provide one day - win or lose.

In other words, Weaver was right all along.

See you guys at the Texan game Sunday after next!

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I'm glad they're doing this. Hopefully, more TV game spots will be more good publicity for the city. I think the covers will look cool, even with ads on them.

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mwfsu, I agree. Jacksonville's setup really doesn't make sense in the NFL market because we are opposite of most other cities. Being one of the smallest markets and one of the largest stadiums is almost backwards in the NFL. But we have pulled it off and we have proven the world that we are a football town.

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What the NFL needs to do is quantify a "sold-out" stadium by the smallest stadium in that league. For instance if the smallest stadium in the league was 60,000 seats, then the other cities in the league should only have to seel 60,000 seats in their stadium to avoid a black-out for that home game. Seems only fair.

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i hate the NFL's blackout policy. way to endear yourself to the fans guys. this just shows the absurdity of it. Let's cover up some seats to get around it. I'd say strike a deal with the nfl to not count those seats and charge half price for them. Maybe donate them to the school district or something. silly.

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^LOL, its definately a dog eat dog world. However, there wasting their time, the Jags aren't going anywhere, especially not Orlando.

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That article just is not true. Maybe the columnists need to come up to jacksonville and count every seat in alltel stadium. Maybe they will get the picture. What is the size of Jacksonville's stadium compared to other NFL stadiums? I think that we all know that it is up there with the top. Why don't they write about that.

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Some news....

"Jacksonville is not an NFL city."

Really?

69,900 per game - more than Tampa Bay. In fact, Tampa Bay didn't sell out its first game until half way through the 1976 season. Jacksonville, meanwhile, sold out its first six seasons.

Does Whitley think those 69,900 were misled into buying a ticket to a college game?

It sounds like jealousy to me.

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This is not a new thing...was talked about back in spring training by Weaver. It is all about supply & demand---creating scarcity, what any good salesman knows gets people to buy.

Btw... we are the 4th largest stadium and only the first three seasons were sellouts. (see the NFL.com article)

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As frustrating as the NFL's blackout policy is, it does make sense. NFL Football is an attraction. The attraction is not free to produce, so why give your product away for free.

An interesting tidbit - the NFL did not introduce the current blackout system, Washington did. Originally, the NFL's policy was that all games were blacked out in their home market, regardless of whether they sell out or not. However, it was ruled that the NFL can not block access to their product, when there were fans that desired to see it and could not buy a ticket.

Vic Ketchman on Jaguars.com has had a few interesting perspectives on the subject.

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