Jacksonville Sports Scene: Where to Find Non-stop Action
Looking for action-packed excitement in Jacksonville, Florida? While football brings major professional sports to JAX, exciting minor league baseball action has existed since the beginning of the 20th century. Additionally, Jacksonville has reigning national champions of the semi-pro American Basketball Association. Or maybe a professional hockey, soccer or PGA Tour gets adrenaline pumping. Whatever the game, here’s the scoop on the Jacksonville sports scene.
Jacksonville Sports Scene Welcomes Everyone to Cheer
The NFL made a splash when it returned to Jacksonville in 1995, when the Jaguars’ run took them to the AFC Championship in just their second season. However, pro football was introduced to “The Bold New City of the South,” by one of the game’s iconic heroes, Ernie Nevers. In 1926, the Hall of Famer formed the Jacksonville All-Stars and squared off against the Red Grange and Chicago Bears.
Later in 1996, the NFL Jaguars created a frenzy in Jacksonville, rolling through the first two playoff rounds into an AFC Championship Game appearance. The Jags duplicated that same feat in 2017, ending their season just one game shy of the Super Bowl. Tony Boselli, Mark Brunell, Maurice Jones-Drew and Jimmy Smith have worn black and gold for Jacksonville, totaling 16 Pro Bowls among them. Today, the Jags make their lair at TIAA Bank Field, an open stadium that seats over 67,000 fans.
Baseball: Jumbo Shrimp
The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, formerly the Suns, are a member of the Southern League and class Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. Jacksonville served as the site for Major League Baseball’s first spring training in 1888, when the Washington Statesmen hosted the Athletics, Dodgers and Reds, among other teams. In addition, former all-time home run king Hank Aaron was once a Jacksonville Brave, one of four players to integrate the South Atlantic League in 1953.
Skip to present day. The Jumbo Shrimp, Southern League champs as the Suns in 2014, play home games at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The $34 million park opened in 2003 and seats 11,000 fans, ranking it among the largest venues in Double-A baseball.
The Icemen landed in Jacksonville in 2017 for their inaugural season after seven years in Evansville, Indiana. The team plays in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), a mid-tier minor league, and is an affiliate of NHL’s Winnipeg Jets and AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
To catch a game, watch the Icemen at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. During the 2017-18 campaign, 13 Icemen players made it onto the Moose roster, with three of Jacksonville’s top five scorers on either NHL or AHL contracts. In addition, the team is coached by former 15-year professional player Jason Christie, now the winningest coach in ECHL history.
The Giants have brought five American Basketball Association (ABA) national championships to Jacksonville in the eight-plus years since they joined the semi-pro league as an expansion team. One-time NBA All-Star and 1992 U.S. Dream Team member Christian Laettner played a season with the Giants, who for two seasons logged 29-1 regular-season records. The team also fields the largest ABA dance team, showcasing more than 40 girls ages 13 through 25 in two separate teams: teen-aged Gems and adult Jewels. Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena hosts the Giants.
Soccer: Armada FC
For the town’s professional soccer team — Jacksonville Armada FC — it’s let’s play anyway! When the North American Soccer League (NASL) postponed its 2018 season, Armada FC announced it would field a team in the National Premier Soccer League, a fourth-tier amateur association in American soccer, while still retaining membership in the NASL. Both spring and fall Armada FC games occur at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.
The Jacksonville Axemen reign as national champions of the USA Rugby League, having completed a Cinderella 2018 season with a 56–16 victory over Brooklyn to claim its third national title.
In 2009, during an inter-sport match-up, the Axemen won the first-ever American football versus rugby game, 38–27. After two quarters of American-style football, the Jacksonville Knights held a 27–6 lead. But it was all Axemen in the second half, as the ruggers scored 32 points for the win. To experience the hype, watch Axemen play home games at 9,400-capacity Hodges Stadium on the University of North Florida campus.
Women’s Pro Tackle Football: Dixie Blues
Women’s tackle football teams and leagues have been in existence for over 40 years. However, the most promising growth in the sport — according to the Women’s Football Alliance — has taken place over the last five years. Since 2001, the Jacksonville Dixie Blues have been putting on pads and lacing up cleats, only missing action for two seasons in the last 18 years. Check out the Dixie Blues in spring and early summer when home games are played on the campus of University Christian School.
Golf: PGA Tour
There’s no lack for links in the Greater Jacksonville area. It is home to professional golf, with PGA Tour headquarters located just 18 miles southeast of downtown Jacksonville in the suburb of Ponte Vedra Beach. At the facility, fans can attend The Players Championship — sometimes referred to as golf’s “5th major.” St. Johns County is also home to the World Golf Village and World Golf Hall of Fame. For those who prefer playing a round instead of watching can choose from more than 60 courses in the area. Read our picks for the top JAX golf courses.
Gear up for the Jacksonville sports scene! After buying tickets, book a Jacksonville vacation rental.