Mark Lamping, president of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is this week’s featured guest. In our conversation, we talk about the job responsibilities of an NFL team president, about the Jaguars’ efforts to develop downtown Jacksonville, the city’s chances to host another Super Bowl, and about what lessons Mark has learned after earning a Super Bowl Ring and a World Series ring.
Chris Cate: Welcome to the Fluent In Floridian Podcast featuring the sunshine state’s brightest leaders talking about the issues most important to the people of Florida and its millions of weekly visitors. I’m your host Chris Cate, and in this episode, brought to you by SalterMitchellPR, I talk to Mark Lamping, president of the Jacksonville Jaguars football team. In our conversation, we talk about what being the president of a football team entails, about the team’s efforts to develop downtown Jacksonville, about how technology is changing the business [00:00:30] of football, and what he has learned after learning a super bowl ring and a world series ring. And you can hear it all right now.
Mark, thanks so much for being on the show. Most people know what a head coach and a general manager of a football team do, but I’m not sure that everyone knows all that a president is responsible for. So can you give our listeners an idea of what you’re changed with doing as the Jaguars team president?
Mark Lamping: Well as far as every team in the NFL is concerned, [00:01:00] these jobs are similar from organization to organization, but they’re not exactly the same. Here in Jacksonville, my role is pretty simple: I’m basically responsible for all the business operations of the Jaguars. I’m not responsible for decisions on players or coaches or how a team is assembled, but I do have full responsibility [00:01:30] for anything that relates to the business in terms of financial activities, marketing, sales, our charitable activities, what we do in the community, and how we deal with our facility, and in our development initiatives. Whether it’s building new facilities, we recently completed with the opening of Daily’s Place here in Jacksonville, or other broader initiatives, such as [00:02:00] our work in London along with our real estate development activities that we’re planning on the banks of the St. John’s River here in Jacksonville.
Chris Cate: So how did you get your start in sports? Did you know someone in the industry already, or was it just something you grew up really wanting to be a part of?
Mark Lamping: I think a lot of people want to get into sports, and I’ve literally talked to a thousand people over the years that are expressing interest, and asking questions, how do [00:02:30] you get into sports? It’s a really, really popular industry, that’s the good thing. The bad thing is there tends not to be a lot of jobs available in sports. So when you have an oversupply of people interested and an under supply of positions, it’s really tough for a lot of people economically when they first get into sports. I was very fortunate, early in my career I spent a number of years with Anheuser- [00:03:00] Busch. Anheuser-Busch, as many people know, is a big supporter of sports. They’re very much involved in sports from a sponsor standpoint and even from a team ownership standpoint. And as I worked my career at Anheuser-Busch, eventually I was promoted in the position of director of sports marketing. And it was from that position of director of sports marketing that I became the president of the St. Louis Cardinals, [00:03:30] the major league baseball team in St. Louis that Anheuser-Busch owned at the time.
Chris Cate: Yeah, one of the things I find really cool in your background is that you have a Super Bowl ring and a World Series ring from your work with the football Giants and the baseball Cardinals, like you said. I can’t imagine there are many people that can make that claim. I’m curious what lessons you took away from those experiences, and how being the president of a baseball team might be a little bit different than a football team? Or maybe it’s a lot the same?
Mark Lamping: Well, there’s a lot of lessons, [00:04:00] and sometimes the lessons you learn when you’re a 36 year old president of St. Louis Cardinals for the first time, or when you’re in your late 40s and you’re working with the New York Giants and the Jets. The lessons you learn change over time. But the one lesson that was very obvious to me from the very beginning, up until and including today, is that you’re [00:04:30] only gonna be as successful as the employees that you have the pleasure of working with. The idea that somehow great companies can continue to be great companies or become even greater without having the best possible employees, that’s a misnomer.
So the focus on attracting the best possible people to work for you, and once you make a commitment to hire someone, that commitment doesn’t end. [00:05:00] You focus on putting employees in the best possible situation to have success, that you’re sensitive to their needs and their desire, that you work to allow employees to continue to develop from a personal standpoint, to develop from a career standpoint, and you understand that sometimes there’s more important things than an individual’s job. And to create an [00:05:30] environment where you have a reasonable balance between work and life away from work. All of those things are really important.
Chris Cate: And how difficult was that for you to build your team when you came to Jacksonville after having been at very successful franchises in the past? Is it hard to find that right team around you?
Mark Lamping: Well fortunately, it’s been pretty easy because we have a lot to work with here in Jacksonville. We’re located in the great [00:06:00] state of Florida, the weather, the natural resources in Northeast Florida are outstanding. The city of Jacksonville has an unbelievable high quality infrastructure as it relates to healthcare, the tax environment is outstanding. So as a community, it has a lot going for it. But beyond that, if you’re trying to attract people to join an organization, [00:06:30] you always want to attract people that are smart and hardworking, and people that have real great aspirations to be successful, it’s not that often that you can offer them the promise that we have here in Jacksonville.
First, I’ve always been a big believer in trying to find people who are just about ready for that next big job, as opposed to hiring people who have been in that big job [00:07:00] for quite some time. So if you’re gonna give people opportunities and give them responsibilities beyond what they currently have, you got a big step up in terms of recruiting them. But also, the opportunity to be part of something very special. Unfortunately, the city of Jacksonville has never hosted a super bowl, a championship parade, the Jacksonville jaguars haven’t made it to a super bowl, certainly haven’t won a super bowl. And the city itself [00:07:30] has been under criticism for a number of years in terms of its support for the football team.
And if you combine all those things, and if you’re able to succeed, you’re really putting yourself in a position where you’ve accomplished something really, really special. I was fortunate enough to be president of the St. Louis Cardinals for 14 years, and we went to a couple world series during that period, and won the world series in 2008. And that was wonderful, [00:08:00] but that was the Cardinals’ 10th world championship. If I could be part of bringing the first super bowl champion to Jacksonville, you only have the opportunity to do something for the first time once. And because of all that, we’ve been very fortunate to attract great people at Jacksonville.
Chris Cate: How much does the win-loss record of a team impact the profit potential for a team? I’m sure, you obviously want the jags to win more games. But if they struggle or when they struggle, how hard does that make your [00:08:30] job? Does that make things much more complicated, or as a business side, kind of a stable part of the business, you have such great ebbs and flows based on winning percentage?
Mark Lamping: Well losing doesn’t make our job easier, and winning certainly would make our job easier. But while winning and losing is the single most important thing that affects our business, it’s not the only thing. And our belief, and something I’ve developed [00:09:00] and understood as many people in a similar position as I am understand across the league and in fact across all sports, it’s not a really good use of your time if you’re focusing all your time and energy on things that you don’t control. So we don’t control winning each and every week, that’s controlled by the players and by the players of the team that we happen to be playing every day.
So we focus on those things we do control. And we can’t control what our effort level is, we [00:09:30] can’t control where our focus is, we can’t control strategically what we choose to do. And we can impact in a very significant way the quality of the experience our customers have when they choose to visit EverBank Field, and as they view their investment of hard earned money into tickets to Jaguar teams, we also can impact the perception of what the price of the tickets is versus the value that they receive. And again, the value that customers receive is influenced significantly [00:10:00] by whether the team won or lost that day, but again it’s not the only thing that plays into that experience.
Chris Cate: In general, it seems that football is as popular as it’s ever been, but it’s also getting easier to watch games on TV and even on a phone. Can you talk a little bit about how technology is changing the business of football?
Mark Lamping: Well it’s easier than ever to sit at home and enjoy a game on TV. The cost of large flat screen TVs [00:10:30] has gone down significantly over the years, and now they’re within the reach of virtually every household here in the state of Florida. The NFL does an outstanding job in terms of the quality of production of our games, you can sit at home and watch your favorite team in an HD broadcast with multiple replays and replays from multiple different angles. And you have a lot of other things to do here in the state of Florida. The interest [00:11:00] of the football fan has changed over time. Today, about 40% or so of NFL fans are also big fantasy football players, so if you’re a fantasy football player, you want to keep one eye on your favorite team, but you also want to keep another eye on your fantasy team.
And we have some unique challenges here in Northeast Florida, where over 50% of the people [00:11:30] that live in Jacksonville are not from the state of Florida. And NFL allegiances are formed at a young age, and they run very, very deep. So we got a lot of people here in Jacksonville that while they want the jaguars to do well, they certainly don’t want them to do well when they play their favorite team. So it’s in that backdrop that teams have to really focus on making the necessary investment, both in dollars as well as people and other [00:12:00] resources, to make sure that the fan’s experience is as good as it possibly can be when they visit your stadium. And here in our case, it’s EverBank Field.
It starts when people leave their home, traffic needs to be well-managed, parking needs to be very efficient, you need to get people processed through the admissions gates very quickly, you need people that are taking their ticket or checking their ticket or checking their mobile phone, interacting with the customers in a positive [00:12:30] way, so those customer actually believe that the people that are welcoming them realize how important they are to their livelihood. Little things like stadiums being kept clean, concessions being managed in an efficient way, bathrooms being kept clean. All the little things like that are really important.
Then when you get into Sitting Bull, we gotta make sure to the extent we can that all of those things a fan can enjoy at home, really high quality [00:13:00] video boards, multiple replays being played simultaneously, and being able to keep track of what’s happening around the league. All those things are really important, we spend a lot of time focused on that. And fortunately, even with a record which has not been good at all, in fact it’s been very bad over the past couple years, the experience that our customers have at EverBank Field is very good, even in considering [00:13:30] that most of our games at home in recent years have been losses.
Chris Cate: I’m really fascinated by your development plans for the Shipyards. Can you talk a little bit about the mixed use elements of the Jaguar stadium as it is now, and then about your goals for developing beyond the stadium to the shipyards for instance?
Mark Lamping: Of course. One of the challenges that we have here in Jacksonville is that as far as NFL markets are concerned, we’re one of the smallest markets, both in terms of population and [00:14:00] the concentration of corporations and other companies that could potentially be supporters of the Jaguars. We have a population that’s the second most transient population in all the NFL, behind only Washington, D.C. And our average income is a little low compared to the NFL average. So when you combine that with what I said earlier, a large percentage of people that [00:14:30] relocated here to the Jacksonville area, that brought with them their allegiance to their favorite NFL team, we have some challenges. One of the most important metrics that we measure our performance by is the amount of revenue that we generate locally.
And what we’ve been trying to do is not only maximize the revenue we can generate as it relates to the Jaguars, but also find and develop new revenue streams. We started that with a major initiative [00:15:00] in London, we currently move one of our home games each year to London. That game generates significantly more revenue for that one game versus that have been played in Jacksonville. So that helps us here in Jacksonville. We recently opened a partnership with the city of Jacksonville Daley’s Place, which is a 5500 seat covered performing arts center that is connected to EverBank [00:15:30] Field. It shares some of the amenities and services and infrastructure of EverBank Field, along with the parking lots. And after its opening on Memorial Day Weekend this year, between then and the end of this year, we’ll host over 40 concerts.
So not only is that bringing more people to downtown Jacksonville, it’s also been very successful from a financial standpoint. We know that at the end of the day, the jaguars are probably only going to be as successful [00:16:00] as downtown Jacksonville is. So to a degree we can work hard to have more people work downtown, more people live downtown, more people visit downtown, that’s gonna benefit the development of downtown Jacksonville. And to the extent that that development occurs, the Jaguar will certainly accrue our fair share of that. So there’s a large parcel of property right on the St. John’s River, which is adjacent to EverBank Field.
And [00:16:30] our new amphitheater Daley’s Place, that has been sitting dormant for many decades, and we believe that if we’re gonna attract people to EverBank Field and we want them to be energized when they get here, we want them to feel safe, we want them to feel comfortable, that that piece of property needs to be developed. And we submitted a bid to the city of Jacksonville, we were selected as the developer for this property, and we’re [00:17:00] very excited about what the development of the shipyards of Jacksonville can bring to downtown Jacksonville. The vision of our own Shahid Khan is for mixed used development, highlighted by a five star hotel with places for people to work, places for people to visit, places for people to shop, and all that being done in the context of an exciting new urban fabric right in downtown Jacksonville.
Chris Cate: [00:17:30] It seems like that would make Jacksonville a very attractive location to host a future super bowl. Is that part of the plans, or just in general, is hosting a super bowl something that you as a team president are actively always trying to bring to Florida and to Jacksonville?
Mark Lamping: You know, I think in the case of Jacksonville unlike Miami or unlike Tampa Bay, if we’re able to get the city into [00:18:00] a position where we would have all the infrastructure necessary to be able to host a super bowl, we’d probably be focused on it a little more. Right now, Jacksonville does not have the minimum number of hotel rooms necessary to host a super bowl, we don’t have amount of convention or exposition space to be able to host a super bowl. So we need to do some work locally before we would even [00:18:30] consider becoming part of the super bowl picture. Super bowls do great things for our communities, but my experience has been that the super bowl comes after you’ve done great things in your city, it doesn’t come before. It comes after you built a new stadium, it comes after you’ve done some great things in terms of downtown development.
We’re at the beginning of that process right now. The Jaguars hosted a super bowl not [00:19:00] that long ago, but since then, the requirements of hosting a super bowl have gotten so much more stringent. So our focus is just helping us get closer and closer as a community to being able to qualify as a bidder. And once we can get there, then we’ll make a decision collectively, not just the Jaguars, but the entire community, as to whether that’s something we want to focus on.
Chris Cate: You mentioned London a couple of times. I know it’s not always an easy trip for the players [00:19:30] to make, but can you tell me why taking your team to London makes so much business sense?
Mark Lamping: Well we have challenges compared to other NFL markets here in Jacksonville for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. And one of the areas that we have to focus on each and every day is the amount of revenue that we generate from our games. Almost all our games are played here in Jacksonville. But when we had the opportunity to work with the NFL in terms of developing [00:20:00] American football in London and throughout the UK, and we could do it in a way that put us in a position where we’re actually generating incremental revenue versus the revenue that would’ve been generated had that game been played in Jacksonville, given our situation, we had to do it. And it’s made us a stronger franchise.
That’s understood throughout our community, and unlike what happens in most other communities when teams move a game to London, [00:20:30] our game each year is really a celebration of Jacksonville. We’re joined by the mayor and other key elected officials, the chamber of commerce comes with us, and we really treat that week as a trade mission for Jacksonville, and we’ve been very successful. This will be our fifth consecutive year of going there, and since then, we’ve been able to attract many, many jobs to relocate from the UK to Jacksonville, or UK based companies [00:21:00] to open branches here in Northeast Florida.
Chris Cate: Yeah, that sounds really smart. I want to close now with a final four quick questions that I ask every guest. The first being, is do you have a Florida leader who you admire? And that can be somebody who’s currently a Florida leader, or someone from the past, either way.
Mark Lamping: A lot of these are tough, I’m really blessed to live in Florida right now, I’ve only been here five years. But I guess as I look back on it a little bit, a couple people, [00:21:30] one on the political side, one not on the political side. But given what he did at a very tough time, and some of the bridges that he helped bridge not only in terms of the Cuban and the Hispanic markets and his focus on education, even some of the education, the toughest areas down in Miami, I really have a lot of respect for Jeb Bush. I think he did a really good job at a very difficult [00:22:00] time for the state of Florida.
And having had the opportunity to live for a while down in Palm Beach County and living here in Jacksonville now, you can really see firsthand the significant impact that Henry Flagler had on the state and when you think about that, in terms of whether it’s the Florida East Coast railroad or what happened with the development of some of the great old hotels from Jacksonville all the way [00:22:30] down through the south of Palm Beach, probably has had as much of an impact on the state as anyone.
Chris Cate: Yeah, absolutely. What person, place, or thing in Florida do you think deserves more positive attention?
Mark Lamping: That’s an easy one for me, it’s tourism. I think we all know how important tourism is to the state of Florida. It’s not necessarily more important than education or more important than economic development, but it’s the one thing that [00:23:00] really separates us from almost every other state. And it’s very, very competitive, and not only is it very, very competitive, it is critically important to the overall economy to the state of Florida. So I think it’s really, really important that we try to take the politics out of tourism. There’s far too much politics right now in terms of Florida tourism. And if we’re not careful, we’ll begin seeing our tourism numbers drop, and that’ll be felt throughout the entire state, whether you’re involved in that industry [00:23:30] or not.
Chris Cate: Do you have a favorite Florida place to visit?
Mark Lamping: A lot of ’em. As I mentioned earlier, I worked for Anheuser-Busch for a long time, and Anheuser-Busch obviously has big presence here in the state of Florida, and I have visited a lot of areas throughout the state. Really enjoy visiting around the keys, took me around Ocean Reef. And when you live in St. Louis for as long as I do, a lot of people drive to the beaches in the panhandle and in [00:24:00] the Dustin area. And working with the St. Louis Cardinals, I had a lot of experience in St. Pete and over in the Jupiter area, and a lot of snowbirds from the St. Louis area find their way to Naples. But I love all the places, and in particular, really come to enjoy the great places in Central Florida. Not only Orlando, but what they’ve done around the Streamsong golf resort is just outstanding.
[00:24:30] But if I had to pick one place, it’s probably because it has some special meaning to my wife and I, it’s probably Emile Island up here in Northeast Florida.
Chris Cate: All right, the last question is probably the easiest of all for you, but it’s a question I do ask every guest. What’s your favorite Florida sports team?
Mark Lamping: Well I have to give you two answers on that one. If it’s the month of March, it’s the St. Louis cardinals when they’re training in Jupiter, Florida, Roger Dean Stadium. And outside of that, of course it would be the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Chris Cate: [00:25:00] Good, you still travel to a lot of games to see the Cardinals play when they’re here?
Mark Lamping: I do, I try to get down there at least once during the spring. I still have some very close friends with the Cardinals, I worked there for a long time and that’s just such a wonderful area over there. Again, had an opportunity to see what they did there with the Abacoa development, I remember going there when I was president of the Cardinals when we were trading in St. Pete, it was right before the Devil Rays were coming [00:25:30] to Tampa Bay, and we ended up relocating across the state to Jupiter. And I remember going out there for the groundbreaking for Roger Dean Stadium, and there was virtually nothing in that entire Abacoa development. And today, there’s thousands of homes and Florida Atlantic has a campus there. And there’s a great research facility there, and there’s some shopping, and a very successful stadium. So it’s great to be able to see firsthand the power [00:26:00] of mixed use development here in the state of Florida.
Chris Cate: Well good, well thank you for sharing that, and thank you so much for being on the show.
Mark Lamping: I really appreciate it, thanks for the invitation.
Chris Cate: Thanks for listening to the Fluent In Floridian Podcast. If you aren’t subscribed to the podcast yet, I hope you’ll look us up and subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app, like Apple podcast, Stitcher, or Google Play Music. If you leave a review, that would be great too. Thanks to my team at SalterMitchellPR for making this podcast possible. If you need help telling [00:26:30] your Florida story, we’ve got you covered. We offer issues management, crisis communications, social media advocacy, and media relations assistance. We also have our own in-house creative and research teams. Look us up at SalterMitchellPR.com for more information. You can also find more information about the Fluent In Floridian podcast at fluentinfloridian.com. Have a great day.