Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Re-Energizing Fans- Northeast- Sept. 2002

Wayne Weaver acknowledges that some of the "new" may have worn off his Jacksonville Jaguars. Demand for seats was "euphoric'' in the years immediately after the league expanded to Jacksonville in 1995, he says. But more recently, Jacksonville, the NFL's second-smallest market after Green Bay, has had an increasingly hard time filling Alltel Stadium, one of the league's 10 biggest with 76,400 seats. Sales of season tickets, for example, have fallen from a high of 67,000 in 1997 to 47,000 last year.

Weaver, the team's majority owner, is personally spearheading a marketing blitz in the community, appealing to business-related groups. Mayor John Delaney and chamber of commerce officials have responded with a corporate push, including a First Union-Wachovia commitment for 500 season tickets. Delaney asked city managers to buy season tickets as donations to the employee reward program.

The team appears even more worried about support from individual fans. A national research firm puts Jaguars' average prices at the fourth-highest in the league, with ticket prices ranging across a wide spectrum from $10 for general admission seats to $192 a game for premium seats.

In response, the Jaguars have dropped an earlier requirement for a three-year commitment on season tickets and now offer a one-year season pass for nothing down and $20 a month.

Weaver says he also has realigned the team's sales efforts to "energize" a broader group of fans in northeast Florida and southern Georgia and try to sell "blocks of tickets to the many small businesses and entrepreneurs" in the region. The campaign includes a direct-mail appeal to 150,000 non-season-ticket holders from Daytona to Gainesville to Brunswick, Ga. -- plus newspaper ads and TV commercials.

The Jaguars' woes at the gate mirror their on-field performance: The team has had losing seasons in 2000 and 2001 after coming within a game of going to the Super Bowl in both 1996 and 1999.

At issue is both money and television exposure. With fewer games aired, the team would lose some television revenue, and the exposure gives the Jaguars an opportunity to build fan support. The NFL decides 72 hours before a game if there should be a blackout. Last season, empty seats in giant Alltel Stadium kept three of eight regular season home games off local TV.

Weaver says that while the team needs to work hard to rebuild ticket sales, the area shouldn't fear that he'll move or sell the team. "Not an option," he says.


Alachua Citizens Bank -- Florida Citizens Bank has moved into its new Alachua headquarters, which is also a full-service branch, and now has two Gainesville branches and one each in Micanopy and Ocala. Meanwhile, both SunTrust Bank and CNB National Bank are building branches: SunTrust plans a two-story facility for mortgage, trust and private banking departments for its north-central Florida division. CNB's branch will be the Jacksonville-based bank's third Gainesville office.

Gainesville -- Exactech, a Gainesville orthopedic devices maker, plans a $4-million expansion before 2004, nearly doubling its 38,000-sq.-ft. facility. Employment of 100 will expand by 130, with wages averaging $50,000-plus -- 92% higher than Alachua's $26,155 average.

Jacksonville -- A lawsuit by the Utility Contractors Association of North Florida contesting the city's minority set-aside policy is headed for federal court after the two sides failed to settle the dispute. Construction on Better Jacksonville Plan projects will halt until the matter is settled.

The city's plan to host an NFL owners meeting on a cruise ship here in May 2003 for the 2005 Super Bowl may not work out. The city and NFL officials wanted to hold such a meeting to show the feasibility of having cruise ships provide 6,000-plus rooms for the 2005 Super Bowl. But Jacksonville hasn't been able to line up a cruise ship, and the meeting will probably be held in Philadelphia.

Since Jan. 1, freight forwarder Stonier Transportation Group has added 50 employees. Revenues ended June 30 are up nearly 50% from the year-earlier period.

The Gomma USA Inc. unit of Italy's C.F. Gomma begins training workers this month for its new automotive parts facility here, including management and technical personnel. The company laid off 300 plant workers in Indiana in making Jacksonville its unit headquarters. The privately held company makes brake hoses for Ford, GM and DaimlerChrysler pickups and minivans.

Marion County -- The Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce formed a Small Business Council to aid businesses with 50 or fewer employees, particularly African-American, Asian and Hispanic businesses.

San Diego's Price Legacy Corp. investment company purchased Heather Island Plaza -- which opened in Silver Springs Shores in 2000 with a Publix anchor -- from developer Horne Properties, of Knoxville, Tenn., for $7 million. The center has a Blockbuster Video and Domino's Pizza.

Northeast Florida -- Jacksonville recorded 1,169 home sales in May, about the same as a year earlier, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. The median sales price rose to $121,400 from $111,200. In Gainesville, 264 homes sold, up from 216 a year earlier. The median price rose 11% to $130,000 from $117,100.

Commuting time in the Jacksonville area in the 1990s grew by 18%, placing the city 10th among major metropolitan areas nationally, according to the Road Information Program based on 2000 Census data. In the Duval-St. Johns-Clay-Nassau region, typical commutes took 26.6 minutes vs. 22.6 in 1990.

Yulee -- Austin, Texas-based Paladin Claims Recovery relocated to Yulee with nine employees. The company, which tries to recover written-off hospital bills, plans to employ 85 over 18 months and 300 in four years.


JACKSONVILLE -- The second-place finisher in the bidding to design a new courthouse for Jacksonville is contesting the city's decision to award the project to Cannon Design.

KBJ Inc. senior architect William Morris says Cannon Design's proposal for an eight-level, 44-courtroom structure with large columns and a dome exceeds the city's $162.5-million budget. Morris says the city made late rule changes and alleges Cannon did not provide enough money for utility relocation and street closures. The city's Professional Services Evaluation Committee won't suspend negotiations with Cannon.

The courthouse is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2005.