Thinking back to the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s when the NFL was talking about expansion and Jacksonville was doing everything it could to be noticed, a stadium lease and an agreement between the city and any NFL team was an afterthought. That idea went right to the forefront though when the people trying to get a team, Touchdown Jacksonville, and the city administration, led by Mayor Ed Austin called the whole effort off when they couldn’t agree on a lease.
There was a segment of the local population that was happy about the whole deal falling apart. They were the power brokers in town and didn’t want to see “their” town change. Finally, the city and TD Jax came to their senses and the deal got done. It allowed for a united front when it came time to present the city of Jacksonville as a potential NFL town to the league. The league saw the value in Jacksonville and awarded the city a franchise in 1993.
Corporate leaders were standing in line to help out. My employer, Channel Four and the Washington Post were front and center, offering just about anything they could to help get things going. It was an exciting time.
Fast forward to the present.
The team has been in action for 11 years and ticket sales have been average for about half of that time. The team has been average for about the same amount of time over those 11 years. And, admittedly, some of the luster has worn off. The honeymoon is over and it’s a business, albeit a big, glamorous business, but still a business. And they’re having a very public fight about parts of the lease agreement between the city and the Jaguars.
That’s part of the problem.
The fight shouldn’t be public, but both sides are acting like they need to win a PR campaign in order to justify their side of the story. It’s a business deal! It’s not some kind of charity, or social gathering, it’s a business. What are both sides doing talking to the media about it? Forget that part. The city is too immature to deal with the Jaguars directly. They know the Jaguars would eat their lunch if they had to make a deal with them without some outside help. I don’t have any problem with that.
They hired Dean Bonham as their representative, which is fine, but he doesn’t have a vested interest either way. He’s a hired gun for the city. He should be trying to get the city the best deal he can, and then get out of the way. He shouldn’t be going around telling people there’s a buyer for the team to move it to L.A. for $1 billion dollars. The Jaguars, on the other hand, have a bad reputation in the business community throughout the city. They’re considered tough and a bit ruthless as they’ve big-footed their way through various businesses in town leaving blood in their wake. Some people consider them a bit hotheaded as well.
So that’s not a good combination: immature vs. hotheaded.
The city needs to realize there’s a cost of doing business in the high stakes world of big time entertainment, in this case the NFL. The Jaguars should negotiate as hard as they can, and accept what the city can offer. The whole thing with the ribbon signage in the stadium seems simple: The Jaguars bought it and built it so they should own the rights to it.
I listened to a Jaguars radio show on Wednesday night with Bill Prescott, the Jaguars CFO as he outlined the Jaguars position. He makes sense, but I had to laugh at Brian Sexton and Jeff Lageman as they “interviewed” Prescott. The Jaguars pay them so it should have been billed as an hour of “The Jaguars side of the story.” Vic Ketchman, the other host of that show is also technically employed by the Jaguars and has always been disappointed in the fans turnout and the city’s administrations apathy.
One thing Wayne Weaver should be scratching his head about is the lack of corporate support and outcry defending his position and telling the city to get their act together. John Peyton should be worried about looking stupid (right after the Cecil Field fiasco) and some potential opponent promising that he’d do anything it takes to keep the Jaguars in town.
Either way, I wish they’d both go underground and get the job done.