In the context of its viability as an NFL market, Jacksonville is saddled with the “small-market” label and its team, the Jaguars, is often mentioned as a candidate for future relocation. It hasn’t helped matters that the Jaguars, after the heyday of their early years when they twice reached the AFC championship game, have fallen on hard times.
But those factors hardly mean Jacksonville and the Jaguars’ home, EverBank Field, isn’t worth visiting. The “River City” is actually the largest city in Florida by population, with more than double the number of residents as Miami and Tampa (that’s helped largely by the fact that it’s the largest city in the continental U.S. by area) and holds its own with its in-state rivals in tourism, in part because of its popularity among golfers.
EverBank Field, meanwhile, has gone through its share of recent renovations to improve the fan experience, and in addition to the Jaguars hosts the annual Florida-Georgia rivalry game in college football as well as the TaxSlayer (formerly Gator) Bowl. So when it’s football season, downtown Jacksonville is the place to be.
Photo credit: JaBari Brown
- The Approach
EverBank Field is located on the eastern edge of downtown Jacksonville in what’s known as the Stadium District, with the city’s arena and minor-league ballpark as well as the Jaguars’ practice facility in the area. It’s not a difficult area to reach by car, with two expressways running right by the stadium and the major highway, Interstate 95, right on the other side of the St. John’s River as it winds its way through downtown.
The venue is surrounded by parking lots that are organized by letter; of these lots, only the ones farthest from the stadium are available for general parking. Parking passes can be purchased in advance and get cheaper for lots closer to the downtown core, though the walk to the stadium from there can be a mile and a half or more.
If you’re parking in a downtown lot, or if you’re a visitor to Jacksonville and staying in a downtown hotel, there is an alternative to hoofing it in the form of a shuttle service run by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. Round-trip fare cost $7 and picks up from two downtown locations (it also stops in three suburban locations; the fare is $12 if you embark from one of these points).
- The Build-Up
The sea of parking lots around EverBank Field means the tailgating scene is usually good, as no self-respecting football game in the Deep South would be missing a strong tailgating scene. If you’re looking to tailgate before the game but don’t have access to a permit for one of the premium lots, check out Tailgaters Parking, which operates lots east of the venue.
Aside from tailgating, there’s a smattering of small bars and restaurants within walking distance of the stadium, the closest one being the Tailgate Bar and Grill across the street. Otherwise, your best bet is to look downtown for a greater selection of establishments, the only negative being, of course, that you’ll have to walk a fairly long way or take the shuttle to the game afterward.
- The Ambiance
Once inside EverBank Field, you’ll find a pretty big stadium, made more so by the depth of the lower bowl, which is comprised of two ring sections (the venue has a second deck along both sidelines). The Florida-Georgia game nearly always sells out, but for Jaguars games the big stadium has proven to be a disadvantage — the team resorted to tarping off sections to reduce capacity in an attempt to avoid TV blackouts before the NFL lifted that rule in 2015.
Still, though, the team has been proactive about taking measures to improve the fan experience. The two most obvious new features were the installation of HD videoboards behind each end zone that currently stand as the longest in the world (each are 362 feet long, eclipsing the width of the field) and the construction of a party deck that includes a pool and lounge areas. The spa cabanas and party cabanas are sold the same way suites are, so you might need to know someone to get access to these areas, but they’re certainly worth checking out if you have a chance.
Even without the unique features, EverBank Field is a more-than-adequate football stadium, one that was deemed worthy enough to host a Super Bowl in the past. The Jaguars’ down days means the atmosphere might not be as rollicking as many other NFL venues, but watching a game there remains a worthwhile experience.
Concessions options are as varied as you’d expect for a large venue, with most of the usual options (burgers, hot dogs, BBQ) available. If you’re looking for something local, sample the selections of beer from Bold City Brewery, based in Jacksonville.
1 Everbank Field
Jacksonville, FL 32202
All times local
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