JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars’ losing record this season isn’t only breaking the hearts of football fans. Shareholders say the football failures could also impact the development of Lot J, which would include apartment buildings, hotels, office spaces and entertainment options.
When the Jaguars made the playoffs for the first time in a decade in 2017, the River City was electric, with local enthusiasm hitting an all-time high. It’s a feeling fans haven’t experienced since the Jaguars lost the AFC Championship that season. And years before that, the Jaguars lost so many regular-season games that the NFL blacked out games because not enough tickets were sold.
That losing legacy is something to this day that worries local investors, who would rather put their money behind a winner or at least a strong competitor.
“When the team does well, the psyche of the town is elevated. There’s more commerce. More people are going to the games. It uplifts the spirit of the town. Poll numbers go up for local politicians. And it’s a winner all the way around,” said former Mayor John Delaney, who’s now the chair of the Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of 70 current and former CEOs of businesses with interest in developing downtown.
Delaney says winning football games would create positive national exposure for the city of Jacksonville, instead of the current football fiasco.
“You hate being the laughingstock or where you’re not even really paid attention to by the national media. But when the team made the playoffs run -- America likes Cinderella, so they like new -- we really were just a bad couple of referee calls from going to the Super Bowl just 2 ½ years ago, and that makes a lot of things easier in town,” Delaney said.
Fans say winning games would boost local pride.
″You got a look at your other winning teams, as well, and what their whole cities have done. You see these giant parades when they’re winning. Just the camaraderie around it, it brings everybody up when you win,” said Jaguars fan Hillary Mollo.
Jaguars fan Tucker Worsham said: “If we did have a winning team, I think that could help the revitalization of downtown possibly. I mean, right now it seems like it could be a waste of money. We have an outdated stadium that we don’t fill up every week, so I think there are a lot of good things that could come from a winning team.”
Delaney says top-level executives with the Jaguars have expressed the same concern about continuously losing and the optics of having one of the worst teams in the NFL. It’s likely just one of many reasons that Jaguars owner Shad Khan and the new general manager pick, when Khan makes one, may begin to clean house and start next season brand new.