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Volume 24 No. 157
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Jaguars Converting Patio Space At EverBank Field Into Fantasy Football Lounge

The Jaguars will open a high-tech fantasy football lounge at the start of this season at what formerly was the Sky Patio at EverBank Field. The air-conditioned room is estimated to accommodate 200 to 300 fans, and will feature up to 30 HD TVs streaming games, plus "NFL RedZone." It also will have high-density WiFi, various forms of seating and a high-end bar -- all of which will overlook the field -- and will eventually phase in tablets. Given the increasing attractiveness of the at-home experience, Jaguars Senior VP/Fan Experience Hussain Naqi said that the team decided to build the lounge to bring some of those features from home to the stadium. He added, “One of the things we hear from our fans is the fact that they want to be able to check their fantasy scores, to be able to see ‘RedZone,’ to be able to be at a place where they can cool off. They want to be able to go to a place where they have amenities so they can come and take a break from all of the hustle and bustle of going to a game. This will allow us to provide that amenity to fans irrespective of whether they’re a premium customer or not.” The cost of the project was not available. The Jaguars will join the 49ers as teams that are building fantasy lounges. Jaguars President Mark Lamping also recently noted that the stadium's new videoboards will give the team the capacity to run the "RedZone" channel throughout the game. Naqi added that precise requirements for admission to the lounge have yet to be determined, but he is hoping the room will be available for all ticketed fans. The Jaguars are still in talks with companies considering sponsorship of the lounge, including those in the wireless, insurance, legal and construction sectors. The team hopes to have a deal in the coming weeks.

There are a considerable number of out-of-town transplants in the Jacksonville market, which makes the lounge an attractive measure in getting fans of other teams into EverBank Field. But Naqi said that increasing demands for bandwidth at NFL stadiums -- and the lagging service that often ensues -- also furthered the lounge’s attractiveness. Naqi: "What ends up happening in these large outdoor venues is, coming up with a feasible solution where you get enough density and capacity to be able to service folks properly becomes a real challenge, particularly in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We wanted to combine the luxury of having an air-conditioned space -- particularly because of the heat in the first part of the season down here -- with the amenities of being able to watch games: To check your fantasy scores; of being able to access WiFi with no problems at all, and to do so in sort of a lounge-type setting." The room's dimensions have yet to be finalized because the organization is still mulling over whether to just retrofit the existing 7,000-square-foot structure or slightly expand it. Figuring that out has been complicated by the fact that the structure cannot be permanent, as capacity for the annual Georgia-Florida college football game must be expanded in a way that necessitates the room's temporary removal.

: Naqi said that he expects the fantasy football lounge concept to spread throughout the league as teams are forced to compete with the at-home experience. The Falcons and Vikings have already expressed varying forms of interest in getting one. Naqi added, "You’ll really start to see that take hold in the next few years as people [around the league] start being able to figure out within their own context what’s the most cost-efficient and executable way. Because what we need to do -- certainly the Jaguars need to do -- is make sure that any obstacle anybody has to going to a game is removed." As for the future of fantasy lounge sponsorships, Competitive Sports Analysis President & CEO Diane Bloodworth, whose company creates predictive data for fantasy sports players, said the industry should expect more deals like the 49ers-Yahoo pact. That sponsorship will see Yahoo use new forms of integration, such as bringing in fantasy football experts to the lounge. Bloodworth added, "They want more users to come online to Yahoo Sports and play their fantasy football game. And this is something they’re offering that the other two big names -- CBS Sports and ESPN -- currently do not offer, so it really does differentiate them. You can imagine if they were at most of the venues in the NFL, that would really set them apart."