New Generation Of Jaguars Fans Emerge

Aug 16, 2013

In recent years the Jacksonville Jaguars have struggled on the field, and struggled to sell tickets. That could be changing as the first generation of homegrown Jags fans comes of age.

Jacksonville surged with energy when the Jaguars began their first season in 1995, and not even the city's youngest residents could escape the excitement.

Credit Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

Many of the kids who were in town in 1995 still have the same passion for the team twenty years after Jacksonville was awarded an NFL franchise in 1993.  

Karim Mourad was eight during the Jags first season and has never forgotten his first game — it was Christmas Eve against the Cleveland Browns.

“It was ice cold and we had the nosebleed seats,” said Mourad. “I was bundled up with a parka on.”

But Mourad said it didn’t matter, because he was, "in heaven.”

Now, at age 26, Mourad said having the team and city united in excitement solidified him as a fan.

The team's first playoff season was exhilarating for Mourad as a kid, and an inescapable part of the Jacksonville community.

“We were shopping and the Jaguars had won,” Mourad recalled. “The whole place erupted in applause and cheering and I was like, this is amazing.”  

As one of the largest NFL stadiums in one of the smallest NFL markets, blackout concerns early in the team’s history would turn into reality for the Jaguars.

The Green Bay Packers also have a large stadium in  a small market, but the Packers are also the third oldest franchise in the NFL.

Their history has seen the “Cheesehead” moniker passed down from generation to generation, a phenomenon just now emerging in Jacksonville.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan said reaching this emerging demographic of young, homegrown fans is critical.

“If you look at our north zone for next year, it’s geared toward a younger audience with the cabanas, the swimming pools, the vibe,” Khan said.

The new scoreboards planned for the north end zone are the largest of their kind in the world, offering young people the type of technologically forward experience they're used to.

Credit Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

University of North Florida students who grew up with the Jaguars have proven eager to purchase discounted tickets through what, according to student body president Carlo Fassi, is the first partnership between a university and an NFL team.

“We had students waiting in line for a 10 a.m. sale time around 7 a.m.,” said Fassi.

“People were not literally camping out, but metaphorically, just sitting out there waiting so they could be first in line to receive tickets.”

And as those students turn into young professionals, with more money to spend, they may upgrade from discount tickets to club seats.

Many of them are hooked — just like Karim Mourad, who is a few years older and already looking to the future.

“This generation, like in the mid-twenties, that excitement is going to transfer to the season," he said.

"People are going to bring their daughters who have never been to a game, their sons who have never been to a game.”

He says being a Jaguars fan is a tradition that won’t end with him.

“I can’t wait to have a kid and raise them to be a Jaguars fan.”

Perhaps that will be the generation that regularly sells out Everbank Field.