Several years back, Jacksonville was chosen as the host for the Super Bowl in 2005. The excitement from this announcement has yet to die down in some circles. For myself, I can't say I'm all that enthused. I like watching FSU college games and the Jaguars play on occasion, but football in general doesn't excite me. As is increasingly typical with viewers, I watch the Super Bowl more for the commercials than anything else.
But this isn't really about Football. It's about the city wanting to become more recognized as a bustling southern metropolis. The Super Bowl announcement was Jacksonville's biggest achievement since...well...since we were awarded the NFL expansion team in 1993. So now the city has been instituting some procedures in order to impress the people who come in for the game. And as cynical a bastard as I can be sometimes, I actually like two of them.
The first is an artistic stroke. Sea Cows for Kids is a program that has placed 50 fiberglass manatees, all of them painted and molded around a different theme, throughout Jacksonville. Sally Corp, which has one of the coolest looking buildings downtown, created the manatees and different Jacksonville businesses sponsor each one. Mrs. Mosley and I went downtown about a month ago to take pictures of some of them. It was a Sunday afternoon during a Jaguars game and downtown, as is the trend for our downtown on a weekend, was nearly a ghost town. We parked and walked from manatee to manatee, taking pictures. The only other people we saw were...also taking pictures of the manatees. Needless to say, we have a long way to go in order to get our downtown jumping again.
The second is a marketing maneuver. The city paid a local PR group $91,000 to come up with a new slogan for the city: "Jacksonville: Where Florida Begins". Not only is this geographically true (I-95 is the busiest artery into Florida, and it first comes through Jax), it's also very elegant in it's simplicity. I've certainly heard worse. Fans of Michael Moore's "Roger & Me" will remember the cheesy "Our new spark will excite you" slogan that Flint, Michigan came up with for their revitalization. Plus, and here's where the cynical part of me peeks through, the slogan doesn't make any high promises. Instead of saying that our city is the greatest thing since sliced bread, it simply puts a kernel of knowledge into people's brains that we exist and that we have great potential. Any other conclusions can be drawn from the visitors themselves.
Jacksonville certainly isn't alone in the area of needing to revamp downtown. Having worked in the are for coming on 18 months now, I can see it possibly becoming a pedestrian downtown, as opposed to the pace where people work nine to five on Monday through Friday. I doubt the Super Bowl will work the overnight miracles people are hoping for, but it can be a decent start.