Council approves Wi-Fi project for EverBank Field

Jaguars will contribute about half of $4 million cost

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A new Wi-Fi system is coming to EverBank Field.

The Jacksonville City Council approved the $4 million project Tuesday night, and the Jaguars will contribute about half of the funds.

Anyone who has ever been to a Jaguars game, the Gator Bowl, or any other major event at EverBank Field knows that trying to upload something to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can take a long time, if it goes through at all. But the new Wi-Fi system will change that soon.

The NFL said last year that all NFL stadiums must be equipped with Wi-Fi before the start of the 2015 season. With the Jaguars already making upgrades to EverBank Field this offseason, it made sense to take care of the Wi-Fi upgrade now, too, said City Council President Bill Gulliford.

"The Jaguars came to us and said, 'Hey, we can save some money doing it now since we are already doing the other enhancements, and by the way, we are going to contribute some to the effort,' which they aren't contractually obligated to do."

Gulliford said being able to do the project that is obligated by the NFL at the $4 million cost was a no brainer. Had they waited until next offseason, contractors could have put in higher bids, costing the city a lot more than they are paying now.

"Let's just say we waited a year, which we could do," Gulliford said. "Then we would have the NFL rule to meet Wi-Fi standards in all stadiums. What if that cost went to $6 million? And what if the Jaguars said, 'That's your deal. Come up with the money,' and gave us nothing. Then where would we be?"

The upper level cabanas in the North End Zone, the ones not by the new pools, have been sold out for next season. Those 12 cabanas each hold 20 people and were sold at a cost of $3,000 per game, proving some of the criticism wrong.

"To sell it out really helps validate our strategy and validate that we knew the market was looking for this," said Chad Johnson, Jaguars senior vice president of sales.

Poolside cabanas are available for a few of the games, but those are selling quickly, too. Among the other new seating options, all 120 North End Zone rail seats are sold out, all but six of the 38 Kickoff Club tables are sold, and about 60 percent of the field-level seats are sold for the season.

"The energy and response from the fans has been great," Johnson said. "This is such a unique and new experience here in Jacksonville, and you can't get it anywhere else in sports. I think that has had a lot to do with it."

Season ticket sales are up from this time last year, and single game tickets go on sale to the public Friday at 10 a.m.

Officials hope to have the new Wi-Fi up and running when all of the new upgrades are unveiled July 26 between the Fulham vs D.C. United soccer match and the Carrie Underwood concert at the stadium.

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