When the owner says it’s time to win, it’s time to win. And while he didn’t use those specific words today, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan clearly has high expectations for his team in 2016.
“Absolutely, I can’t wait,” Khan said when I asked him if he was excited about the start of training camp next week.
With the free agent acquisitions in the off-season, the draft falling their way and coming off last season’s breakout offensive year, the plan seems to have come into place. Patience has run thin during the building process, occasionally for Khan and certainly for the fans, but the roster looks legitimate on both sides of the ball.
“It’s scary good,” the Jaguars Owner said with a chuckle when he talked about the names on this year’s team. “Certainly the four years I’ve been here, we’re not used to the national attention. It’s good to have expectations and it’s good to have pressure.”
It’s become the vogue thing among cable network shows to take notice of the Jaguars and even pick them to win the AFC South. As if they know something everybody else doesn’t. But the team doesn’t care where they’re predicted to finish. The only prediction they care about is what their owner’s idea of success will be. “Better than 5-11, I can tell you that,” Khan said earlier this year when I asked him about raising the bar for 2016. So when he talks about “expectations” and “pressure” it’s pretty clear his mandate for 2016 is pretty simple: win.
While he’s happy with where his football team appears to be on paper at this point, Khan is also pleased that the stadium improvements are giving the Jaguars home a distinctive look and giving him a reputation as an innovator.
“This is a 20-year old facility, so how do we make it the best in the business?” Shad said as he addressed the new clubs on the east and west sides of the field. “You create something people want to be a part of. It puts the stadium and the city in the best light. We have a lot of other things going on here besides the NFL so it says a lot about the experience and a lot about the city.”
The clubs will have floor-to-ceiling windows facing the field as well as all of the latest digital technology to attempt to engage the fans from inside and entice them to come to games. While the east and west clubs were identical in the original design, the two sides of the stadium will give a very different experience in what the team is calling the “re-imagination.”
“Why not?” Shad said, standing in the East club when I asked him about the two clubs being different. “If we want to have different experiences it should be different. One is more casual, one is more formal. This is a public stadium. We want to have more use. If you’re looking for a more urban feel, more Manhattan, that would be the other one (the West club). Here it’s more of a casual, more of a beachy feel.”
Clearly the Jaguars research showed that fans don’t want to be tied down to their seats during games. Between the clubs and the end zone spaces, there’s plenty of room to roam. And Shad is trying to be on the front end of that fan experience.
“I think listening to the fans here and also listening to the fans around the world. What would be something they would aspire to because what we have here is something cutting edge.”
And as soon as the clubs are finished, construction will start on the amphitheater and the “flex field” Khan wants as a centerpiece of that part of town. While the Shipyards project goes through the EPA process that might take a while, the Jaguars owner is trying to put some “mojo” in the design, something he said was lacking in Jacksonville a couple of years ago.
“I think the South End Zone is going to be fabulous. Its Jacksonville, Florida at it’s best. Open air but yet can be closed for weather. Great design, almost something iconic that could be signature landmark for Jacksonville.”