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EverBank Field
[[File:‎|300px]]
File:Jacksonville Municipal
Former names Jacksonville Municipal Stadium (1995-1996, 2007-2009)
Alltel Stadium (1997–2006)
Location One EverBank Field Drive, Jacksonville, Florida 32202
Coordinates 30°19′26″N 81°38′15″W / 30.32389°N 81.6375°W / 30.32389; -81.6375Coordinates: 30°19′26″N 81°38′15″W / 30.32389°N 81.6375°W / 30.32389; -81.6375
Broke ground January 3, 1994
Opened August 18, 1995
Owner City of Jacksonville
Operator Spectacor Management Group
Surface Grass
Construction cost $121 million (1995 Renovation)
Architect Populous (1995 Renovation)
Structural engineer Bliss and Nyitray, Inc.
Capacity NFL football: 67,164 (expandable to 76,867)
College football/special events: 84,000
Tenants
Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL) (1995–present)
Gator Bowl (NCAA) (1996–present)
ACC Championship Game (NCAA) (2005–2007)
River City Showdown (NCAA) (2007–present)
Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic
(College Football) (1995–present)
Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)

EverBank Field (formerly Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and Alltel Stadium) is a football stadium located in downtown Jacksonville, Florida next to the St. Johns River. It is the home stadium facility of the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise. The stadium sits on 10 acres (40,000 m²) of land, including portions of the original Gator Bowl Stadium; it had a capacity of 73,000 when re-opened and expansions over the past decade have since increased that to 76,867.

EverBank field is used primarily as a professional football facility but does host other events including monster truck shows and concerts. It also hosts a number of annual college football games, including the Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic each year between The University of Florida and The University of Georgia, and a post-season bowl game, the Gator Bowl, which pits teams, as of 2011, from the Big Ten Conference and the Southeastern Conference. The stadium is also a former site of the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game.

Contents

Construction

The stadium was built using a few portions of the historic Gator Bowl Stadium, itself dating from 1949. However, all of the elements included from the older stadium—the pedestrian ramp system and the more recent West Upper Deck section of the complex—dated back only to 1982. Construction started January 3, 1994 and the new stadium opened on August 18, 1995 with an exhibition game with the St. Louis Rams. Total construction time was under 20 months and total cost was $134 million – $60 million of which was provided by the city of Jacksonville.

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Planning

In January 1993, representatives from the Universities of Florida and Georgia began negotiating with Jacksonville representatives to renew the contract to host the Florida vs. Georgia Football Classic, the annual rivalry football game between the two universities. The two teams' five-year contract with the Gator Bowl ended after the 1994 game, and the Citrus Bowl had offered Florida and Georgia a larger sum of money than the Gator Bowl for the right to host the game.[1]

To counter the Citrus Bowl's larger monetary offer, Jacksonville mayor Ed Austin proposed a $25 million renovation plan to Jacksonville's aging Gator Bowl Stadium, which had been built in 1949. Both teams had expressed concerns about the condition of the aging stadium, and renovations were considered key to enticing the teams to keep returning to Jacksonville, bringing tens of millions of dollars in consumer spending with them.[2] Despite the promise of renovations, Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley was unswayed,[3] so Austin widened the scope of the renovations, increasing their price tag to $49 million, and traveled to Athens, Georgia, to talk with Dooley in person.[4] Austin's campaigning was partially successful. On March 23, 1993, the two universities announced they had signed a five-year contract with the Gator Bowl, running from 1997 to 2002. The contract was contingent on Austin successfully passing the $49 million renovation bond issue through the Jacksonville City Council and the city completing the renovations by the 1996 game.[5] On Tuesday, May 11, the Jacksonville City Council approved a $219.5 million bond issue, including the $49 million for the renovation of the Gator Bowl.[6][7]

NFL expansion

Soon after the approval of the bond issue, investors interested in attracting a new National Football League team to Jacksonville requested that another $30 million be added to the $49 million renovations in order to make the stadium more attractive for a professional team.[8] That number climbed higher throughout the summer, and eventually the city reached an agreement with the leading group of investors hoping to attract an NFL team to Jacksonville. On July 1, the city and investors reached a lease agreement contingent on the city investing $112.3 million for improving the Gator Bowl.[9] The lease agreement later collapsed when the Jacksonville City Council voted to send the lease back to a committee for further study rather than approving it.[10] One month after the proposed deal fell through, city officials and investors tried again and were successful in negotiating a deal that included a pledge to spend $121 million on renovations to the Gator Bowl.[11] Due to the expanded renovations, it was announced that the 1994 Florida-Georgia game would have to be moved out of the Gator Bowl, as had the 1995 game, in order to provide time for the newly expanded renovation plan to be completed before 1996.[12] In the end, the expanded bond issue and renovation program proved to be successful, as Jacksonville was awarded the 30th NFL franchise—the Jacksonville Jaguars—on November 30, 1993.[13]

Almost as soon as the celebration surrounding Jacksonville's new NFL team died down, however, a renovation contractor's plan to give eight percent of the stadium work to minority-owned businesses drew criticism. The NAACP and another group said African-American businesses should have been awarded twice that amount of work.[14]

Current stadium

The stadium's re-opening day was also the home debut of the Jaguars during the 1995 NFL season. It was the first time that an expansion NFL team had played its first game in a new facility. The Gator Bowl returned as a New Year's Day bowl game on January 1, 1996, following the 1995 NCAA season.

In 1997, the stadium changed its name to Alltel Stadium after naming rights were acquired by Alltel, a telecommunications company best known as a wireless carrier. The name Alltel Stadium stopped being used by the city after January 2007 when the contract expired.

2005–present

File:Alltel
The escalators outside the stadium

In 2005, the stadium hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in which the New England Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24–21 in front of 78,125, the largest Super Bowl in attendance since 1994. In 2003 and 2004, $47 million in improvements to the stadium were implemented to prepare for the Super Bowl. These improvements included the addition of a unique sports bar in the south end zone called the "Bud Zone," a larger and wider video and scoring display from Daktronics, escalators in the north and south end zone, and a new "terrace suite" right above the "Bud Zone" in the south endzone.[15]

Before the 2005 season, mainly due to low attendance figures and looming blackouts, team officials installed a series of tarps to reduce the seating capacity for Jaguars games. The covers were placed to block out seven sections in the upper north endzone and four in each upper deck section, located on the corners of each. This puts 9,703 seats out of service, leaving the stadium with 67,164 seats for the regular season. While some believed that this was a sign that the city couldn't handle having an NFL team, the current 67,164 seats available is actually very close to Wayne Weaver's first proposal to renovate the stadium during his bid for an NFL team in 1992 before the city council failed to approve it, mainly due to not having enough seats to accommodate the annual Florida-Georgia game.

Despite the changes, however, blackouts have still occurred, including two of their first three home games in 2007: against the Atlanta Falcons on September 16 and against the Houston Texans on October 14.[16][17] In 2009, nine of ten games were blacked out locally due to insufficient ticket sales, with only the final home engagement of the regular season, with the popular Indianapolis Colts, managing to sell out.

For the Super Bowl, Florida-Georgia game, and occasionally the Gator Bowl, temporary bleachers are put up in the south end zone and the tarps are removed, raising capacity to over 84,000.

The attendance record was set on September 29, 2007 when 85,412 watched Florida State defeat Alabama in what was dubbed the River City Showdown.[18] Each school received nearly 36,000 tickets, and the Gator Bowl Association added 5,800 additional seats.[19]

On July 26, 2010, naming rights to the stadium were bought by EverBank,[20] one of the nation's largest privately-held bank holding companies with approximately $11.2 billion in assets. On August 10, the deal was officially approved by the Jacksonville City Council with a 14-3 vote.[21]

During the Jaguars' off-season, the team not only managed to retain more than 90% of their season ticket holders, but also managed to acquire at least 13,000 new season ticket holders according to the "fuel gauge" meter that was constantly present on the team's website during the off-season. On September 12, 2010, those numbers were proven to be correct as the Jaguars opened up their 2010 season to a total of 63,636 out of 67,164 tickets distributed during the hottest game in Jaguars' history against the Denver Broncos [22] and defeating them 24-17.

References

  1. ^ Snook, Jeff. "UF-Georgia negotiations start today", Palm Beach Post. January 12, 1993. Page C1.
  2. ^ Florida Sun-Sentinel staff reports. "College Football," South Florida Sun-Sentinel. January 22, 1993. Page C2.
  3. ^ Palm Beach Post staff reports. "Georgia may move '96 game to Athens", The Palm Beach Post. February 18, 1993. Page C8.
  4. ^ Sun-Sentinel staff and wire reports. "Sports in brief", South Florida Sun-Sentinel. March 4, 1993. Page C2.
  5. ^ Dame, Mike. "Florida-Georgia moving for '95", The Orlando Sentinel. March 23, 1993. Page D1.
  6. ^ The Associated Press. "Gator Bowl gets funds for repairs", St. Petersburg Times. May 12, 1993. Page C6.
  7. ^ Harry, Chris. "Gator Bowl plan OK'd to delight of UF, Georgia", The Tampa Tribune. May 12, 1993. Page Sports 5.
  8. ^ Tampa Tribune staff. "Pro football", Tampa Tribune. May 14, 1993. Page Sports 2.
  9. ^ Banks, Don. "NFL expansion a fleeting dream for Jacksonville", St. Petersburg Times. July 2, 1993. Page C1.
  10. ^ Tampa Tribune staff report. "TD Jax! pulls out of race", The Tampa Tribune. July 22, 1993. Page Sports 9.
  11. ^ Sun-Sentinel staff. "Jacksonville back in race", South Florida Sun-Sentinel. August 25, 1995. Page C6.
  12. ^ Snook, Jeff. "UF could host 1994 Georgia game", The Palm Beach Post. September 1, 1993. Page C9.
  13. ^ Browning, Michael. "Fantastic finish wins NFL team for Jacksonville", The Miami Herald. Dec. 1, 1993. Page A1.
  14. ^ The Associated Press. "Groups criticize contractor's plan", South Florida Sun-Sentinel. December 25, 1993. Page A26.
  15. ^ "Daktronics Photo Gallery: Jacksonville Jaguars, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium". http://www.daktronics.com/ProductsServices/PhotoGallery/Pages/default.aspx?photoID=WP-12843&keywords=jacksonville%20jaguars&filters. 
  16. ^ http://www.cbs47.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=88585f9c-7943-4f98-8b3f-05803c1c7506
  17. ^ http://www.cbs47.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=54c937b1-1074-4807-83f1-1728798e7662
  18. ^ ESPN - Lee comes off bench, rescues Florida State from Alabama - NCAA College Football Recap
  19. ^ Nolesports.com
  20. ^ "EverBank buying naming rights to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium". http://jacksonville.com/sports/football/jaguars/2010-07-26/story/everbank-buying-naming-rights-jacksonville-municipal. 
  21. ^ Mitchell, Tia (August 10, 2010). "City Council OKs EverBank Field deal". Jacksonville.com. http://jacksonville.com/sports/football/jaguars/2010-07-26/story/everbank-buying-naming-rights-jacksonville-municipal. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 
  22. ^ [1]

External links

Events and tenants
Preceded by
Inaugural venue
Home of the
Jacksonville Jaguars

1995 – present
Succeeded by
Current
Preceded by
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Host of the
Gator Bowl

1995 – present
Succeeded by
Current
Preceded by
Inaugural venue
Host of
ACC Championship Game

2005 – 2007
Succeeded by
Raymond James Stadium
Preceded by
Reliant Stadium
Host of the Super Bowl
2005 (XXXIX)
Succeeded by
Ford Field
Preceded by
Mile High Stadium
Host of AFC Championship Game
2000
Succeeded by
Network Associates Coliseum


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