I’m watching the ACC Championship game … not so much because I’m interested in it but to have some noise in the house. It’s being played this year in Tampa, rather in Jacksonville. It had been played her the past couple of years, but the ACC moved the game because the stadium wasn’t full, and they lost money.
Well, the game this year is in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, which has a smaller seating capacity than Jacksonville Memorial Stadium. 65,657 seats in Tampa versus 73,000 at Jacksonville … according to Stadiums of the NFL. Raymond James Stadium looks about half full on TV.
One of the reasons the ACC pulled the game from Jacksonville was because the city refused to guarantee a certain number of seats would be sold, and the game drew fewer and fewer fans as the years went on. This year, it’s Boston College and Virginia Tech … again. Both are ranked teams, but neither ranked high enough to have a prayer of playing for a national championship.
Did it ever occur to the ACC that maybe, just maybe, putting a game in a city that has no connection historical or otherwise to either team playing might mean relatively low attendance? They made such a big deal about the attendance … and thought they were punishing Jacksonville by pulling the game. But really, they did us a favor. Given the budget realities of our fair city, there was no way the city could in good conscious guarantee a certain number of people would be in the stands … and pay the difference if it didn’t happen. And other than the first year, when FSU played in the championship game, I don’t recall a single story indicating that area hotels and restaurants saw the expected revenue from hordes of fans traveling to the First Coast for the game.
I wonder what the ACC will do now that Tampa has shown that BC and VATech just aren’t a big draw in Florida. I can’t imagine if there’s not a Florida team involved in the game that ANY matchup would be a big draw in Florida. I have no idea what kind of deal Tampa offered to get the game, but I’m very happy that it’s the Tampa taxpayers who’ll be on the hook for any disparity between the guarantee and the number of tickets sold. An article in the Sport Business Journal published on December 1st said about 30,000 tickets had been sold locally in Tampa, with an additional 20,000 going to the respective schools … but it sure doesn’t look on TV like there are 30,000 people in the stands, even with enhanced marketing and some gimmicks trying to gin up interest in the game.
It’s a beautiful December day in Tampa. One of the problems I perceive with the Jaguars is that there are so many other things to do here on a Sunday afternoon, and when the team isn’t playing well people might just make another choice. And that’s for the local NFL franchise. I can’t imagine why an organization like the ACC would look at that and think they could sell more tickets for a game featuring two teams in which only very few people here … say if they had some tangential connection to one of the schools … would have any interest.
I guess I understand the logic of trying to find a neutral venue in a warm climate for the game. The ACC stretches from Miami to Boston, and it’d be difficult to pick a venue that would make sense and sell tickets. But don’t blame the citizens of Jacksonville for yawning over a mostly meaningless game between teams that people here don’t care about. And for goodness sake don’t expect me as a taxpayer to support a city donation to the Gator Bowl Association to make up the shortfall. Not if it means fewer cops on the street or fewer hours at the library. That’s a no-brainer.