JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Friday assured Jacksonville Jaguars fans that the franchise's future is safe, despite sagging attendance and a decision to cover seats next season.
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver decided in December to cover 9,700 seats in hopes of alleviating local television blackouts, which have become common the last two years in one of the NFL's smallest markets.
"I think everyone realizes the stadium was somewhat oversized in terms of capacity because of the goal of having it big enough so that you could play a Super Bowl here, having it big enough so that you could play the Florida-Georgia game here, having it big enough so you could play college bowls here," Tagliabue said during his annual state of the league address.
"So what Wayne is doing in terms of reducing the capacity at the margin is intelligent and will bring it much closer to what our average capacity is for new stadiums."
Tagliabue noted that several small-market teams have had sustained success, including Kansas City and Buffalo. He said Jacksonville could do that, too.
"We'll have to keep in place some of our wise policies in terms of revenue sharing and cost sharing," he said. "So if they need support from the league they'll get it."
The Jags will cover the four upper deck corners of Alltel Stadium, as well as 16 rows of seven sections in the north end zone, to drop their capacity from 76,877 to 67,164. The reduction of 9,713 seats means the Jags will now have to sell approximately 49,000 tickets each game -- in addition to the season ticket base -- to reach sellout status.
The team had 11 blackouts in 16 home games the last two seasons.
One drawback of this move is an NFL rule that mandates a team covering seats must do so for the entire season, including the playoffs.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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