The stadium the Jacksonville Jaguars play in isn’t what it was 22 years ago. The Gator Bowl became Alltel Stadium and both are essentially gone. In EverBank Field, there’s more to do than just watch the game. So has that helped or hindered the fan experience? One fan remembers what Jacksonville was like before the team, and tried his best to bring the Jags to Jax. Another is doing his best to keep them here.
Michael Scarborough lived in Jacksonville for 43 years, was a Jaguars season ticket holder for 12 and only recently moved away for a job. He remembers calling the Jacksonville City Council and encouraging them to bring the team to Jacksonville.
“The first few games felt more like a college game,” Scarborough said. Games were packed because having your own NFL team was new and cool. The first game was against the Houston Oilers, in 1995. It was a 10-3 loss, and only half the stadium sat on the actual Jaguars side.
People had a choice to make. Because these were the NFL’s first steps into Northeast Florida, Jacksonville football fans had to make a conscious decision to support their new home team over their old. They had to leave their distant team behind and trust the Jags would bring them glory. But then, in ‘96 the team went to the playoffs for the first time. Just like that, fans flipped. They identified themselves as Jags fans.
Scarborough had always been a Miami Dolphins fan. In ‘99 the Jags beat the Dolphins 62-7 in what would become a legendary playoff game — sending Dan Marino and Don Shula into retirement. That was all it took. “I’m more a Jaguars fan than I am any other team,” he said.
But, he thinks the team needs to find a balance between the fan experience and the game again. For him, “it’s not all about the party.”
Jordan de Lugo thinks differently. He went to his first game as a 4-year-old and is president of GenerationJaguar, a Jaguars news blog that’s grown into a fan club, sponsored tailgates and even a podcast. They’re focused on the people who grew up with the Jags and are now in their 20s. This fan base only knows the Jaguars as their team.
For Jordan, who grew up watching the fan experience morph into what it is now, walking into the stadium is like walking into Disney.
De Lugo thinks Jaguars owner Shad Khan has done nothing but improve the city with all the stadium’s enhancements, and he wants the community to put in the same amount of effort. He wants everyone to step up and be engaged to keep the Jags here.
“Even though the team hasn’t been winning lately, the experience has become more enjoyable.” He would never dream of being a fan of any other team, and wants all of Jacksonville to feel the same.
Even though times have changed, the passion for the Jaguars is still alive and well. Fans like Jordan are the future of the fanbase, but it’s also important to remember the longtime fans like Scarborough who have been here through thick and thin. Whatever the case, we, and the rest of the Jaguars fan base, remain hopeful.