The Jaguars - Jacksonville and Other Small Markets

January 5, 2010 23 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

It's one of the most talked about topics at the water cooler - the Jaguars - and their ticket sales woes. Up to this point, the Jaguars have yet to even be close to selling out any of their home games, and most likely will not for the rest of the year. It seems every national media outlet has had at least one writer take a shot at Jacksonville for the lack of ticket sales. Today, Metro Jacksonville continues its seven part series discussing the Jaguars and the Jacksonville Market, and how they compare to other NFL cities.

An Overview of the Series

Part 1 – How Jacksonville became an NFL city
Part 2 – NFL Economics: What’s changed since 1995?
Part 3 – Jaguars on the Field: How do we compare?
Part 4 – Jacksonville and College Football
Part 5 – Jacksonville vs. Other Small Markets
Part 6 – NFL Relocations and the LA Stadium Plan
Part 7 – What does the future hold?

How Small is the Jacksonville Market?

Below is a table of the Neilsen rankings of TV Households for the past year. These numbers are arguably more important to the NFL than simple population, as TV revenue is one of the top sources of income for the league. Those funds are then split equally among the 32 NFL teams.

RankDesignated Market AreaTV HouseholdsTeam
1New York7,433,820Giants/Jets
2Los Angles5,654,260
5Dallas-Ft. Worth2,489,970Cowboys
6San Francisco2,476,45049ers/Raiders
9Washington, DC2,321,610Redskins
13Tampa-St. Petersburg1,822,160Buccaneers
15Minneapolis-St. Paul1,730,530Vikings
16Miami-Ft. Lauderdale1,546,920Dolphins
21St. Louis1,249,820Rams
28San Diego1,066,680Chargers
30Hartford/New Haven1,014,990
31Kansas City937,970Chiefs
33Salt Lake City919,390
37San Antonio818,560
38West Palm Beach779,430
39Grand Rapids741,420
42Las Vegas728,410
44Albuquerque-Santa Fe689,120
53New Orleans602,740Saints
54Wilkes Barre-Scranton594,570
56Little Rock567,060
62Ft. Myers509,530
66Flint-Saginaw-Bay City465,790
70Green Bay444,210Packers

As you can see while Jacksoville is small, it isn't the smallest. Our focus will be on the seven closest markets: Green Bay, New Orleans, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Nashville and San Diego. Each market has some similarities and some differences, but most importantly, all have some things that we can learn from.

Green Bay

Originally known as City Stadium, the Packers home was renamed in honor of Curly Lambeau, the Packers' first coach, in 1965.

Team: Packers
Year Established: 1919
Championships: 12 (1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1996)
Metro Population: 226,778
City Population 1920: 31,643
Owned By: Public Ownership
Stadium: Lambeau Field (Capacity 72,928)

Frankly, not many. One is that Green Bay is an extremely small market, and it is the only major sports team in the city. Jacksonville is similar in that both cities have a much larger city about two hours down the road (Jacksonville has Orlando and Green Bay has Milwaukee)  However, this is where the similarities end.

The Packers have existed since 1919, which has created a strong, multigenerational fan base. They have sold out every home game since 1960. Their season ticket waiting list is about 75,000 people strong. If you put your name on the waiting list today, it is estimated that you would get the opportunity to purchase season tickets for the 3074 season (that's not a typo - about 70 people give up their seats every year, do the math).

What Can We Learn
In 1995, the Green Bay Packers played all eight home games in Green Bay for the first time since 1956. In the years prior, they played at least one game in Milwaukee. This contributed significantly to the team building popularity in Milwaukee. That can be a model for Jacksonville to follow, assuming Orlando can put together an NFL-caliber facility in the next few years.  

New Orleans

Built in 1975, the Louisiana SuperDome serves as the home for the New Orleans Saints, the Tulane Green Wave and the Sugar Bowl.

Team: Saints
Year Established: 1967
Championships: 0
Metro Population: 1,134,029
Metro Population 1960: 987,695
Owned By: Tom Benson
Stadium: Louisiana Superdome (Capacity 72,968)

Both the Jaguars and Saints have had some down years, both on the field and at the turnstiles. In fact, before Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Saints TV blackouts were fairly commonplace. In fact, before the hurricane (and in the weeks immediately following the hurricane), there were stong rumors that the team would relocate to Los Angeles or San Antonio.

The most glaring difference has to do with the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of the disaster. After Hurricane Katrina came shortly before the start of the 2005 season, the Saints played their entire "home" schedule on the road, with one game at Giants Stadium (where the Giants were the away team in their own stadium), three at LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, and four at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.  When the Saints returned to New Orleans for 2006, they sold out the entire stadium on a season ticket basis for the first time in franchise history. That streak has continued to this day. Also, the Saints Owner (Tom Benson) is not nearly as well liked as Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver, which stems mainly from relocation talks. Finally, while Downtown New Orleans is not regarded as the cleanest downtown in America, it is very vibrant in terms of restaraunts and nightlife establishments, which creates great energy on gamedays.

What Can We Learn
First of all, we should learn that relocation rumors are just that - rumors. Many were convinced that after Katrina, the Saints would never return to New Orleans, yet they are back and more popular than ever. If there is anything that we can learn, it's that a vibrant Downtown can contribute positively to the popularity of the football team. However, the New Orleans situation overall is very different than any of the small markets that we are discussing.


Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills, is one of the few NFL facilities that has permanently reduced stadium capacity. Originally accomodating just over 80,000, the stadium now holds just under 74,000.

Team: Bills
Year Established: 1959
Championships: 2 AFL Championships (1964, 1965)
Metro Population: 1,124,309
Metro Population 1960: 1,306,957
Owned By: Ralph Wilson
Stadium: Ralph Wilson Stadium (Capacity 73,967)

Both the Jaguars and Bills have similar sized markets, and both have a larger market within a two-hour drive (Jacksonville has Orlando, Buffalo has Toronto). Both markets also have owners who are older (Wilson is 91, the Jaguars Wayne Weaver is 73), and don't have a next of kin to pass the team to (so both teams will be in precarious ownership situations once their owner passes away).

The most glaring difference is in the growth of the cities (or lack thereof). The Jacksonville market is one of the fastest growing large metro areas in America; the Buffalo market has been losing population at a higher pace than any major city except for Nor Orleans. With that said, Buffalo has the advantage of a multigenerational fan base, meaning that the percentage of fans of other teams is extremely small when compared to Jacksonville.

What Can We Learn
The main thing that we can learn from Buffalo is to watch the effects from their Toronto series. Each year, the Bills play one "home" game in Toronto, at the Rogers Centre (formerly know as SkyDome). The goal is to generate more of a regional fan base to help sustain the team in the future. This is similar to the proposal that Wayne Weaver announced with the Jaguars in Orlando. However, it will continue to be a proposal unless Orlando builds an NFL-Caliber venue (the Rogers Centre is a more than suitable NFL venue).


Cincinnati's downtown and the stadiums (Paul Brown Stadium for the Bengals and Great America Ballpark for the Reds) are able to feed off of each other, despite the I-71 Barrier. The green lines indicate the proposed streetcar line through Downtown Cincinnati.

Team: Bengals
Year Established: 1968
Championships: 0
Metro Population: 2,155,137
Metro Population 1960: 1,520,222
Owned By: Mike Brown
Stadium: Paul Brown Stadium (Capacity 65,790)

Jacksonville and Cincinnati have a few similarities. Both are river cities, both stadiums are more or less on the river, and both stadiums are cut off by the river (Jacksonville's more so than Cincinnati). However, the most glaring similarity between the markets (particularly this year) is the struggle with ticket sales. Jacksonville's is more severe, however Cincinnati, despite leading their division from wire to wire, was in danger of blacking out nearly every home game this year. However, between corporate support, fans rallying and Wide Receiver Chad Ochocinco (who bought a few thousand tickets himself), they were able to avoid any blackouts this year.

One thing that is different about the Cincinnati market is the difference between number of TV households and population (915,570 to 2,155,137). Cincinnati is also unique in that it is a growing rust belt city (considered by some to be an oxymoron). The team also has strong, multigenerational rivals (with the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, who are the former Cleveland Browns). Finally, for the casual football fan, the stadium (and neighboring Great American Ballpark, home of the Reds Baseball Team), can feed off the vibrancy of Downtown Cincinnati and the convention center area (which is centrally located Downtown).

What Can We Learn
Connectivity to downtown is a huge advantage that Jacksonville needs to leverage. This should be a major point of discussion when it comes to the Shipyards property that is certain to be given back to the city in the coming months.

Kansas City

Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium, home of the Cheifs and Royals respectively, were built together as part of the Truman Sports Complex which was completed in 1972 (Chiefs) and 1973 (Royals).

Team: Chiefs
Year Established: 1960 as Dallas Texans (Moved to Kansas City in 1963)
Championships: 2 AFL (1962, 1966), 1 Super Bowl (1969)
Metro Population: 2,053,928
Metro Population 1960: 1,213,890
Owned By: Hunt Family
Stadium: Arrowhead Stadium (Capacity 77,000)

Jacksonville and Kansas City both serve as second fiddle cities in their state (Kansas City has St. Louis, Jacksonville has Miami, Tampa and Orlando). Like many of the other franchises on this list, both team owners (Weaver and the late Lamar Hunt have been staunch advocates of small market revenue sharing.

Quite a few. Kansas City has a suburban stadium location on the beltway of Kansas City (think Jaguars stadium at I-95 and I-295 on the Northside). The Hunt famiilty has built up decades of traditon (something the Weavers are working towards in Jacksonville). Kansas City also is a metropolitan area frankly, in the middle of nowhere. Other than St Louis (who spent 8 years without a pro football team themselves), the nearest cities with pro football teams are Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville and Dallas. Finally, the bottom line is that the Kansas City region has supported their team year in and year out. In fact, despite their perrenial losing records of late, the Chiefs just suffered their first TV blackout in 20 years this season.

What Can We Learn
We can see that college sports and pro sports can mix. Being on the border of Kansas and Missouri, there are nearby fans of multiple schools all around the region. This may be something that Jacksonville could study to learn how they work in harmony.


LP field, home of the Titans, can be seen on your right, while Downtown Nashville is on the left.  The two are connected via the pedestrian only Shelby St bridge (second from bottom)

Team: Titans
Year Established: 1960 as Houston Oilers (Moved to Nashville in 1997, but played their 1997 season in Memphis)
Championships: 2 AFL (1960, 1961 in Houston)
Metro Population: 1,550,733
Metro Population 2000: 1,311,789
Owned By: Bud Adams
Stadium: LP Field (Capacity 68,798)

The Titans are the market most similar to Jacksonville. It's population is similar to Jacksonville's, the team is about the same age and their records are similar over their history (Titans 112-80, Jaguars 118-106)

Let's start with ownership. Wayne Weaver is almost universally loved. Bud Adams is almost universally hated. Despite bringing a pro football franchise to Nashville, the handling of the move landed some egg on his face.  He also is considered far from charitable. However, the largest difference is with attendance. The Titans season ticket waiting list is at 22,000, while the Jaguars have plenty of seats available. There is not one universal theory as to why there is such a dramatic descrepancy (especially since the 1997 and 1998 seasons were attendance disasters). However, here are a few theories:

 - Supply and Demand: Frankly, the Titans managed this well, the Jaguars did not. LP field is about 9,000 seats less than Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, which caused an instant season ticket waiting list, whereas the Jaguars have only had a wait list in 2006. With the Titans early success, the waiting list built very quickly, and now, most people are in the position to have to keep their tickets, or risk never getting them back.

 - PSLs: Permanent Seat Licenses are one time payments that season ticket holders make to obtain the right to purchase their seats. Once they make their payment, they must renew their season tickets each year, or risk losing the money they paid for a PSL. The money usually goes to paying the bill for the stadium, and ongoing maintenance on the facility. Proponents say that if the Jaguars did PSL's, then they wouldn't be in the position they are in because people wouldn't give up their tickets as easily. However, opponents say that in order to make the PSL have any effect (generally for a $600 annual ticket, a PSL would be in the $2000 range), it would be cost prohibitive to the Jacksonville market.

 - Stadium Experience: The gameday experience in Nashville is dramatically different than one in Jacksonville, and it mainly has to do with the location of the stadium in relation to Downtown, and the vibrancy of Downtowin in general. The stadium is separated from Downtown by the Cumberland River (much narrower than the St. Johns), and is connected with a pedestrian bridge to vibrant Downtown Nashville.

What Can we Learn
See Above

San Diego

Qualcomm Stadium (above) was built for the San Diego Chargers and the San Diego Padres in the middle of a sea of Southern California freeways. The Padres moved to their own facility (Petco Park, below) in 2004, built at the foot of Downtown's Gaslamp District. The Western Supply Metal Company building in Left Field is a 100-year old building that was saved and incorporated into the design of the stadium.

Team: Chargers
Year Established: 1960 as Los Angeles Chargers (Moved to San Diego in 1961)
Championships: 1 AFL (1963)
Metro Population: 3,001,072
Metro Population 1960: 1,033,011
Owned By: Alex Spanos
Stadium: Qualcomm Stadium (71,294)

Jacksonville and San Diego are both Navy towns with large transient populations. Both teams are having ticket office issues (with a playoff game nearly blacked out a couple of years back), and both teams have been rumored to be moving to Los Angeles.

Stadium condition is the most major. Qualcomm Stadium is dated, and lacks the revenue drivers that modern stadiums (like Jacksonville Municipal Stadium a.k.a. "The Jack") have. The Chargers are pushing for a new stadium, but given the disaster that the budget situation is in California, it will most likely have to be privately funded, and with the privately funded Los Angeles stadium deal, that seems unlikely.

What Can We Learn
We can see that it could be worse. San Diego is having attendance issues (however not nearly as severe as the Jags), AND have a poor stadium. The biggest thing to learn is that fan support in some cases is not enough, however in our case, it most likely would be.

The most important thing to take from this is that small markets in pro sports can succeed. Above are seven examples of how other cities make their pro sports work. The bottom line in all of this, the healthy franchises all support their teams, even when they are not successful.

Article by Steve Congro