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Diving into Design

Swimming pools were installed at EverBank Field ahead of the 2014 NFL (National Football League) season. Matt Cutler spoke to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Populous to see whether it’s a stadium initiative worth adopting.

Last NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars lost every game on the road for the second time in their relatively short 20-year history. The fans, however, could take small consolation in the work of their commercial team, who had undertaken a series of initiatives ahead of the 2014 campaign to ensure those watching games at their EverBank Field home could do so with maximum pleasure.

A $63-million renovation started in June 2013 and was completed in around a year. The most visible element of the improvements was two new end-zone video scoreboards – the largest of their kind in the world – but in partnership with leading sports architects Populous, 9,500 seats in the north-end zone were also removed to make way for a two-level party deck.

Notably, the area includes a pair of 25-foot long, 12-foot wide and 3.5-foot deep swimming pools that allow fans to watch action in one of the most attractive settings possible, live from the water or on one of the mammoth new scoreboards. Construction of the pools took place over a period of six months.

People said it was crazy and that we couldn’t do it

The Jaguars named the new area ‘Clevelander Deck’, after the Clevelander Hotel on Ocean Drive in Miami, famous for its party vibe. It is a similar area to the $10-million party deck that was installed at the Coors Field home of Major League Baseball (MLB)’s Colorado Rockies; called ‘The Rooftop’, the 38,000-square-foot Rockies area doesn’t boast any pools, but is a standing-only area that has a 52-foot bar.

Pools are, however, a feature offered by MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, which has a 460-square-foot pool at its Chase Field home. Installed in the 1990s, the pool currently sponsored by Ramtrucks.com is part of a 1,288-square-foot pool deck and is 415-foot away from the home plate.

New Revenue Stream

Why the pools have been installed at EverBank can be understood within a number of contexts. Firstly, they have created a new fan experience that may attract less hardcore Jaguars or sports fans to EverBank. Secondly, Jacksonville is a city with a high population turnover compared to other NFL cities, meaning local sports fans aren’t necessarily Jaguars fans, and require additional reasons to attend a game.

Thirdly, the pools have created a significant new revenue stream: the naming rights for the spas were sold to Jacksonville-based Smart Pharmacy, while tickets cost $225 each per game. Tickets for the pool include access to the nearby lounge and free food and drink, and according to Jaguars spokesperson Dan Edwards, sold out for every game last season.

“The north-end deck created new ticket products – featuring cabanas, the spa pools and all-inclusive food and beverages – that we could sell, so there has been a direct commercial impact from the new products,” he told SportBusiness International. “We also benefitted from media exposure – both mainstream and social – around the new features.”

The deck can also be cleared to install temporary seating and bleachers for games that demand extra capacity, such as the annual college match between Florida and Georgia played at EverBank. 

Pool Rules

Populous’ Ben Stindt, who was the lead designer on the project, said the idea for the deck area came from a conversation about unused seats and how the Jaguars could be innovative in turning them into a new revenue stream.

“It began from us having a bit of fun around the concept of what we could do to create an experience that you could have in the stadium but not at home watching the game on TV,” he told SportBusiness International.

“We presented ideas and started thinking about the community, the region…we are based in the mid-west, but when we think of Florida, we think of palm trees and ocean breezes. One of the first sketches we did looked like a little oasis on top of the stadium.

“I was the first one to mention swimming pools. All of a sudden the structure people said it was crazy and that we couldn’t do it, but once Mr. Khan [Jaguars owner Shahid] saw the designs, he was on board and there was no other option.”

This is just the tip
of the iceberg of
that extra fan
engagement

The deck area is at the top of the stadium, which required a number of considerations at the planning stage, with safety being the obvious starting point according to Stindt.

“As architects we like to come up with crazy and innovative ideas, but our main job is to make a safe environment for fans. That was a big issue – we didn’t want drunken brawls up there; we wanted the atmosphere to be controlled in a club-type setting that respected the area,” he adds.

“Structure was another concern – we were adding the deck to an old stadium, so we had to make sure we had the correct reinforcements. We also had to be concerned about hurricane conditions; we have gazebo-type structures up there and the first wind that came along could have blown it all off. We therefore designed additional anchors and cabling, and mobile equipment that could be dismantled if a hurricane was coming.”

Stindt says a number of sports teams have seen Populous’ work on the deck area at EverBank and are looking at whether similar spaces could work for them.

“There has been a lot of interest, though obviously not everyone has the same environment,” he adds. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of that extra fan engagement or fan excitement in the stadium.

“We are thinking about cold weather markets and what similar amenities we could do for them: could we have some open firepits in a stadium in the future, for instance?”

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