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Jaguars hope luxurious locker room will overhaul image

Beacon Journal wire services The Jacksonville Jaguars have one victory, the lowest-ranked offense and one of the worst run defenses after the first month of the NFL season. But they do have wenge-wood lockers and backlighted mirrors. The Jaguars, who use tarps to cover empty stadium seats, are now also using tablecloths at swank soirees, after spending more than $3 million to construct the NFL’s most luxurious locker room, at EverBank Field, where they practice and play. The locker room looks like a cross between a high-end nightclub (a 41,600-watt sound system) and a five-star hotel (stacked stone wall tile) and is so deluxe that the team recently used it to host a dinner for sponsors. That would have been an unappetizing proposition in the days of cinder-block rooms decorated with overflowing laundry baskets and crumpled tape. But in the most visible attempt to overhaul their image — and they hope, their fortunes — under the new owner Shahid Khan, the Jaguars have embraced their inner interior designer, replete with two waterfalls that splash into plunge pools, Euro-style toilets inside individual private stalls and leather chairs custom-built extra wide to accommodate even the heftiest linemen. There are ventilation systems built into each locker to dry equipment, helping the Jaguars to pull off the unimaginable: The locker room smells like a new car instead of a sweaty sock. “It’s first class, just to show that’s how he does things,” said Khan’s son, Tony Khan, who is also a team executive. “It’s the best locker room in the NFL. He wants this to be the best organization in the NFL.” Shahid Khan, who made his fortune in auto parts, did not just pay for this. He personally met with the designers and approved the details. He ordered the oversize leather swivel chairs at each locker after nixing the original plan of having metal folding ones — with an eye on the win column, not just the bottom line. (Tony Khan joked that it would have cost a lot more if his mother had been involved.) The locker room is more than just a potential entry in Architectural Digest. It is a step into an architectural arms race, contested by teams seeking any edge in the pursuit of free agents, the link between ventilation systems and victories. The Jaguars play in one of the NFL’s smallest and most nondescript markets and have made the playoffs just twice in the last 13 seasons. When they recruit players, they may struggle to sell history or endorsement opportunities. But when the door to the locker room swings open, one of the first things visible is an 80-inch television, and that sells something else: the signal that the team will spare no expense to be excellent at everything. “You want to like your work environment; you want to feel comfortable and know it’s nice,” Jacksonville receiver Laurent Robinson said. During free agency this off-season, the Jaguars showed Robinson and the backup quarterback Chad Henne the plans for the new locker room. “I was like, Wow, this is like heaven,” Robinson said. “It does attract free agents. They want to show you they value their players.”



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