With $63 million worth of enhancements, including luxury cabanas, two new shallow pools in the north endzone and the world's largest video boards, fans who attended the Jaguars' preseason opener at EverBank Field enjoyed an experience unlike any other in the NFL.
The Jaguars distributed nearly 60,000 tickets to Friday night's game and the energy was electric during the team's 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Despite a few hiccups, Jaguars president Mark Lamping said the organization's hope is that every game is better than the one before.
The Jaguars have some kinks to work out, including a Wi-Fi system that will be installed before the first regular-season game and an audio issue during the game on Friday.
“The Wi-Fi solution was not in place for the game (Friday) and there's no question people had problems with that, which we feel will be largely resolved once the Wi-Fi is turned on for the regular-season game,” Lamping said.
Lamping said in-game audio is tough to perfect.
“It continues to be a work in progress and that's one of those things that takes a lot of time to get properly fine-tuned,” Lamping said. “And the environment can be different from game to game, and hopefully we just do better each and every game. That's certainly our expectation."
Even popular mascot Jaxson de Ville, who just won mascot of the year, was mesmerized by the new elements.
“I caught myself at times on the sideline, I was supposed to be doing what I was doing, and I caught myself staring at these boards like 'Oh my gosh,' because it's absolutely amazing when you're here in person and you see the size and the scope of what they're doing. It's really, really cool,” said Curtis Dvoark, who suits up as Jaxson de Ville. “You come here and you watch this stuff and you can't be here without getting sucked in.”
The water taxis were finally back on the river and seemed successful Friday night, although lines were long.
Capt. Ron Hilliard said the water taxis transported about 1,300 passengers to and from the stadium. And his crew plans to devote one boat to each side of the river in the future to speed things up.
“We'd like to cut down on our wait time a little to move them faster, but I think we got everybody there and we cleared them out of the game a lot faster than we expected for only two boats,” Hilliard said. “We were happy with it."
The water taxis run every day from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Downtown Jacksonville. Adults are $7 round trip. Seniors, children and military are $5.
The owners plan to get at least one more boat before the regular season starts.