Attendance Issues May Impact Denver Lax Bid

(above) Changes may be coming to the selection criteria used to select sites for the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four that may affect Denver's chances of hosting the event at Mile High Stadium
From: Inside Lacrosse
by Jeff Jiloty

Five years of declining attendance may impact DU's ability to host an NCAA Lacrosse Final Four weekend according to Jeff Jarnecke, associate director of championships at the NCAA.

This year’s NCAA Lacrosse championship weekend attendance of 79,595 (31,774 Saturday, 17,005 Sunday and 30,816 Monday) was the lowest for the Lacrosse Final Four since 2002, the last time the event wasn’t held in an NFL stadium. And at nearly 20,000 fans off last year’s total and more than 40,000 from the high of 123,225 (52,004 for the Semifinals) who watched in Baltimore in 2007, the downward trend — weekend attendance increased every year from 2003-2007 and has decreased every year since — is definitely alarming for a sport that has seen dramatic increases in participation over the last five years.

Lacrosse fans were talking about the potential of selling out an NFL venue five years ago, and now it’s a more likely possibility that the event moves to a smaller stadium after Philadelphia (2013) and Baltimore (2014) host the next two Final Fours.

Jarnecke said that they’ll be looking at the entire event (venue size, geography, ticket prices, timing, marketing) later this year or early in 2013 when bids are accepted for the 2015 and ’16 championship weekends. Sites will be announced in the summer of 2013.

Jarnecke and Executive Director of Lacrosse at Gillette Stadium Phil Buttafuoco agree that the negative trend is substantial enough that changes need to be made.

“People are starting to make a lot of decisions that are affecting this event,” Buttafuoco said. “We need to collectively evaluate how we can get the event back on track to where we all want it to be, and identify where we can make those improvements and make a commitment to do it.”

The Final Four has rotated between 68,756-seat Gillette Stadium near Boston, 71,008-seat M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and 68,532-seat Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia over the last 10 years. Jarnecke said a 40-50,000-seat venue may be more ideal for championship weekend; he said the possibility of going back to a campus facility is a possibility as well.

When asked about the possibility of moving championship weekend outside its traditional Northeast locations, Jarnecke said the answer might have been different a year ago. Bids for the 2014 NCAA Quarterfinals are due this summer, and the sites will be announced this fall. He said it’s unlikely a non-traditional area outside the Northeast would get a Final Four without first having a Quarterfinal. Next year one Quarterfinal site is in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium, the first time the NCAA has picked a site outside the Northeast for a Quarterfinal or Semifinal.

One point brought up by Buttafuoco was that rising Quarterfinal attendance (PPL Park and Navy Marine Corps Stadium both drew over 10,000 fans) could be impacting the Final Four. Jarnecke said the emphasis will always be on championship weekend and building back through the NCAA Tournament.

Denver has been a hot topic among lacrosse fans, and it was mentioned by Jarnecke when asked about championship weekend moving outside the Northeast.

“I don’t know that you’ll see us be as liberal in that approach,” he said. “There’s still an opportunity for it and the role we need to play in taking the championship to a different site. Denver is still on our mind and we’d be wide open to receiving bids and interest there, knowing that it’s an area that supports lacrosse in a big way. It’s just going to have to feed into the new strategy that we look to roll out in the next few months.”

“Were our minds and vision too grandiose a few years ago when attendance continued to rise?” Buttafuoco said. “People kept thinking we were going to hit 60,000 soon. You know what, we didn’t. And the economy tanked and people don’t have as much money anymore. So how can we reevaluate the entertainment value of this event and create more value so people will start coming back.”


dggoddard said...

DU was very concerned about the high guarantee's the NCAA was demanding to host the event. So that is the good news.

The bad news is the lack of a 40,000 seat venue with club seats in the area.

Folsom Field maybe???

Anonymous said...

Folsom seats well over 50,000 and is not a venue that causal Denver fans are going to go to twice in a weekend - too much of a hassle for most to go to Boulder twice.

CSU is 35K but way too far from Denver, and Air Force is 50K and too far from Denver. Dick's Sporting Goods Park is 18K - too small.

For Denver to get it, it's going to need to be at Mile High, and it's a 30,000 seat draw right now, with maybe up to 40,000 if DU were playing in it.

The reality is we don't have a good fit stadium for this event right now.

dggoddard said...

DU needs to keep building attendance at the annual Mile High lacrosse game.

13,000+ was an awesome turnout this year. Aim for 20,000 with a much more aggressive marketing campaign and a year round commitment to the event.

Then keep building annually.

Anonymous said...

What about Coors Field?

Plenty of club seats, beautiful venue, downtown & smaller capacity.

Anonymous said...

1. Rockies would never rent out Coors the middle of the baseball season.

2. Baseball stadiums are poorly-sighted for lacrosse

2. Pat Bowlen is on the DU Board of Trustees and recruited Tierney to Denver. He wants Mile High to be the site - he also owns the outlaws.

Anonymous said...

Dick's Sporting Goods Park? A little small at 18k seats, but it does have 20 suites... could be ideal for a regional event - especially if it can be packed...

Anonymous said...

Denver Sports was pretty miffed about lots of bluster from the NCAA about expanding the game last time around only to get zero traction when it came to actually deciding the sites for that round.

Anonymous said...

DSGP is just the right size for a NCAA regional, but again, Pat Bowlen would not like that and his vote is the only vote that matters.

The perfect solution would be to add another 10,000 seats to Barton on campus with a grandstand on the other side, some end seating and perhaps a second deck on the south side.

dggoddard said...

In hindsight building Barton was a mistake.

DU probably needs to build a multi-purpose Lax & Soccer stadium parallel with the hockey rink with 10,000-15,000 seats covering where the two fields current sit.

Any $20-40 million donors out there?

Probably not...

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree, DG. Although we might be able to get 10,000 for a couple games per season, some lacrosse games only draw 1,000-1500 fans. And the present capacity for the soccer venue is just fine. So I think it would have been foolish to build a 10-15K stadium back when Barton was built. The current venues are a good fit for the current attendance, and I think they'll continue to be a good fit for at least the next couple of years. Plus, isn't there room to add additional seats on the north side of the lacrosse field?

dggoddard said...

When you build a stadium or arena on a college campus you have to expect a 50-60 year lifespan.

Its fine to build a 2,500 seat lacrosse stadium like they did with Barton, but add to the plans expansion possibilities.

Magness Arena has a false wall on the Press Box side to add another grandstand.

Anonymous said...

When Barton was built, there was no Tierney on the horizon.

He will make that stadium obsolete, likely within 5 more years.

There is already talk of expansion, but like anything else, they need the money to do it.