Cody Cousino / Photo editor
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It wasn’t the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and it wasn’t the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La., but the EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., site of the 2012 Gator Bowl, was the best bowl game location Ohio State football could do this season.
The stadium, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, holds more than 77,000 fans and was home of Super Bowl XXXIX between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. The mostly-full stadium held 61,312 fans for Monday’s Gator Bowl, and The Lantern was there to cover the game, and rate the quality of the venue. Here is our rating of EverBank Field, should Buckeyes, Browns or Bengals fans find themselves there in the future. All categories were rated on a five-point scale, with a five being the highest.
Sight lines/seating: One of the most important factors when shelling out big bucks for an NFL game or a college football bowl game is your proximity to the field and the sight lines. Luckily for those in attendance for Monday’s Gator Bowl, the Buckeyes’ and Gators’ sideline areas were narrow. The front row of seats was quite close to the playing surface. The stadium was not particularly tall, and the higher the row you sat in, the farther you were from the action, kind of like the Rose Bowl. Upper deck seats might not have been the best vantage point, but the expansive lower bowl would be well worth the price of admission.
Lantern rating: 2
Access to stadium/location: Though the stadium wasn’t at full capacity, traffic to the game was manageable — a 15-minute cab ride from downtown Jacksonville. Public transit is an option, as is an elevated, light-rail train that runs right past the stadium. Very convenient. The stadium location is also quite nice. The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, home of the Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, is a beautiful, red-brick ball field adjacent to EverBank Field. Lastly, and perhaps best of all, the stadium is located on the banks of the St. Johns River, which makes for a picturesque scene.
Lantern rating: 4
Aesthetics of the stadium: EverBank Field is comprised mostly of large concrete ramps that run up to the upper levels of the stadium. It isn’t very colorful or particularly eye-grabbing. The open-air facility was very open indeed, and probably not conducive to allowing crowd noise to reverberate and bother the team you’re rooting against.
Lantern rating: 1
Gameday atmosphere: There was a large tailgate party situated on a lawn outside of the stadium. Hundreds of fans attended, ate, drank and watched college football on a jumbo-sized television screen. The cost of admission to the tailgate was $10, but your “ticket” to enter was the official Gator Bowl patch — worn by both teams during the game — attached to a lanyard. The patch was a fine souvenir and the tailgate grounds gave fans the opportunity to meet and get pumped for the game.
Lantern rating: 4.5
To visit or not to visit: All categories considered, EverBank Field garnered a 2.875. A trip to EverBank Field, which was built in 1995, could be justified for a college football bowl game. A trip to see the Jaguars, which finished the 2011 season with a 5-11 record, though? Probably not.