In the 21 years since it was torn to the ground and rebuilt, the stadium downtown, now called Everbank Field, has been transformed from a place to go see a game to one of the premier “fan experiences” in the NFL. As part of a $90 million project scheduled in three parts and to be completed before the beginning of the 2016 NFL season, the clubs on the East and West sides of the stadium are being renovated and “reimagined.”
“When you work for Shad Khan, there’s not a lot of standing still,” Jaguars Vice President of Sales Chad Johnson told me during a tour of the construction on Thursday. “A lot of our club members have been here since day one. And while the clubs were still a great space, they haven’t kept up with the technology.”
Sitting in your seat will be a different experience in the clubs with new, wider, padded seats being installed. But you might not want to sit in your seat for long. Whether it’s a trip to the Bud Zone or Fanduelville, the stadium is being set up to enhance the experience going from place to place for the entire game.
“You come in the club and you lose what you’re here for,” Johnson explained. ” We’re taking the field and bringing it into the club. And we’re taking the resources of the club and taking it outside.”
It’s obvious that when you come to the club for the first time in the coming year, it’ll look completely different. As in, you’ll think you’re in a different spot.
“From this spot here,” Johnson said as he pointed to just inside one of the walkways to the club seats, “to the other end of the club, those walls will be all glass, overlooking the field.”
Those glass walls will be 12-14 feet high. All of the concession areas are being ripped out and rebuilt, allowing for more local fare and more flexibility in the kind of food they can prepare.
And it’ll be a very large, open area.
“One thing the clubs lack is a lot of communal space. We have a lot of 4 tops but not a lot of places where 10 or 12 people can gather,” Johnson explained. “In this new club design there will be a lot of long bar rails and places to get together.”
While the number of “Club Seats” will fall from 10,000 to just over 8,200, Johnson says all of the entities that use the stadium, including the Florida/Georgia game and the TaxSlayer Bowl have been in on the renovation.
“Fans love to be outside, with their friends, overlooking the field. We saw that with Fanduelville. So if we can do that here at the 50-yard line it made complete sense.”
Construction is being done in phases, with the lower clubs on the east and west sides part of the initial work. They’ve built some temporary walls to accommodate fans getting to their seats during the upcoming Monster Jam in February. Following that, they’ll start the demolition of the decks outside and move to the upper clubs as well.
Work in the South End Zone for the “Flex Field” and the amphitheater hasn’t started yet but Johnson says it’s all still pointing to being ready at the start of the season.
“It’s a tight timeline, but we’re doing it in phases,” he outlined. “It’s all part of the big project but we, and our construction partner have a good plan.”