SBJ/Aug. 12-18, 2013/Facilities

Jaguars extend Legends relationship to include retail operations

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed a three-year deal with Legends to run retail at EverBank Field as the team moves toward using one vendor to manage all food and merchandise operations at the facility.

Legends replaces Gameday Merchandising, which had one year remaining on its stadium contract. The Jaguars reached a financial settlement with the Denver-based firm, said Hussain Naqi, the team’s senior vice president of fan engagement.

“We had a strong partnership with Gameday, but with the introduction of our new logo we felt what Legends had to offer was compelling from a customer service standpoint,” Naqi said.

The city of Jacksonville owns EverBank Field and had to approve the retail contract, said Dan Smith, president of Legends Hospitality. The city is Legends’ client for special events at the stadium such as the annual Florida-Georgia college football game.

The Legends deal expands the relationship between the Jaguars and Legends that began in May 2012, when the NFL team hired the company’s sales division to help sell season tickets. Legends Sales & Marketing’s Chad Johnson continues filling that role this year, Naqi said.

On the concessions side, the Jaguars feel having a single stadium concessionaire puts the team in position to get “the best deal for us and our partner, both from an economic and efficiency perspective,” he said. As a result, the team issued a proposal this year to vendors working all aspects of sports food and retail (Gameday is not in the foodservice business).

In addition to Legends running the retail, Levy Restaurants manages EverBank Field’s premium dining and Ovations Food Services operates its general concessions. The Levy and Ovations deals expire after the 2015 season, and the Jaguars’ intent is to tie all three pieces of business to one company starting with the 2016 season, Naqi said.

Levy and Ovations both have experience managing team stores at sports facilities, but it is a small percentage of their business relative to food. Legends, co-owned by the Cowboys and Yankees, launched five years ago to run food and retail at their new stadiums.

From an industry perspective, retail sales for the small-market Jaguars are not on par with high-profile NFL teams such as the Cowboys, Patriots, Giants and Packers. But the club has seen a big lift in sales tied to its new logo, and NFL apparel suppliers have struggled to keep up with demand at Jacksonville retail outlets, according to local reports. For Legends, the same has held true during Jaguars training camp, where the vendor has more than doubled last year’s average sales at a tent set up next to the stadium, Smith said.

To keep the momentum going, Legends has committed to upgrading the 4,500-square-foot Experience Store on the main concourse in the stadium’s west end to improve lighting and circulation, Smith said. The company’s total investment runs in the six figures, he said.

The team store is not a year-round business, but the Jaguars plan to extend its hours of operation to Fridays on home-game weekends this season, Naqi said.

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