How ‘bout Jags Game in The Swamp?

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver created a bit of a stir this week when he suggested that if the NFL expands the regular season schedule to 18 games he would be open to playing one in Orlando. Jags fans were predictably irked about the thought of losing a home game while folks in Orlando were somewhat giddy.

I have a message for the Jags' boss; right idea, wrong city. It's the right idea to try and make the Jags more of a regional team. Jacksonville is relatively small as NFL cities go and it's obvious by their attendance this year they need more supporters. But if they are trying to find more support they should definitely look closer to home. Gainesville is a much better locale for a number of reasons.

Geography ---- If the Jags move a game out of Jacksonville they need to give as much consideration as possible to their own fans. Season ticket holders would find a drive to Gainesville a lot more tolerable than a trek almost twice as far to downtown Orlando. Having a realistic opportunity for your season ticket holders to enjoy the out of town contest is important.

Fan interest ---- You have about 40,000 people in the Gainesville area who attend seven football games a year. That's 37,000 more than do that in Orlando. And almost all of those Orlando football fans are driving to Gainesville for their football fix. Orlando is a Dolphins' city, with the Bucs the second most popular team. Gainesville probably has more Dolphins fans, but they can be bought. The Jags have done a terrible job trying to make Gainesville part of their fan base, but it's never too late to start trying. Orlando will never be a Jaguars town, and it's a waste of time to even try.

Facility ---- This might be the most one-sided aspect of what is obviously a one-sided argument. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is so much superior to the overgrown, outdated toilet that is the Citrus Bowl it's almost immeasurable. You get big screen replay boards, club seats, touchdown terrace seats and sky boxes throughout The Swamp. In Orlando you get to park in a blighted neighborhood and pray that the guy next to you in the communal urinal has good aim. You also get about 20,000 extra seats in Gainesville allowing you to create some very affordable "family" packages.

Tim Tebow ---- If the Jags draft Florida's QB next spring they should immediately try to schedule a game in The Swamp and do so every year. I don't know if he sells the game out, but I bet he comes close. The opportunity to have him back on that field cannot be passed up. Folks in Orlando would not come close to having the same desire to see one of the greatest college players ever playing in their back yard.

Hurdles to Overcome

There are probably issues with the NFL and the Players Association that the Jaguars would have to clear in order to play a regular season game in Gainesville and there are also some issues that would have to be handled in Gainesville.

Beer and other adult beverages ---- The University of Florida and City of Gainesville would have to approve booze sales outside the stadium at some hastily constructed pavilion, probably outside the north end zone. Additionally at the very least alcoholic beverages would have to be available in the suites and club seat areas. Florida might hold the line on concession stands, opting instead for a handful of kiosk type setups around the stadium. I suspect a hard line on this issue would be a deal breaker.

Scheduling ---- The ideal time to play this game would be the Sunday of a Gator off-week. The second choice would be Sunday after a road game that precedes an off-week, and the third choice would be to have a game in Gainesville in December before graduation weekend. Looking at the 2010 calendar and Gator schedule the perfect date would be Sunday, October 24. The Gators have that Saturday off followed by the Georgia game in Jacksonville so think of the co-promotional opportunities there. December 5, the day after the SEC Title Game or December 12 would also be possibilities.

Visiting locker room upgrade ---- Florida does not have the worst visitors lock room in college football, but it's miserable for an NFL team. Some of the money generated by this game would have to be spent on upgrades to that part of the facility.

Still I think this would be a great boost for the Gainesville community and to the Jaguars organization as well. So let's do it. If we're lucky it'll be against the Colts and Peyton Manning can lose in Gainesville for the third time.


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