Puck Swami: Part Two - Pros & Cons of Lax Expansion
The University of Denver’s Barton Lacrosse Stadium was built in 2005 and is now 10 years old. At the time it was built, it was the first lacrosse-only stadium in the country. In recent years, as the University of Denver has become a national power and the sport continues to grow, there has been discussion of expanding the stadium accommodate the increasing demand.
Here is a summary of the key pros and cons of stadium expansion:
Pro-Expansion:1.DU HAS OUTGROWN CURRENT STADIUM The DU program has clearly outgrown Barton Stadium's 2,000 seats. Barton was built well before Coach Bill Tierney’s 2009 arrival and DU has become a national power since then, with a national title in 2015 and four consecutive final four appearances since 2011, as well as multiple league titles in the GWLL, ECAC and now the Big East. DU has proven it can draw 3,000-13,000+ people for every game in Denver depending on opponent, venue, stakes and weather. Sellouts at Barton have become routine, and there is a greater demand for seats than there is capacity. Shutting out ticket-buyers may help short term ticket demand, but long term, it would be far better to accommodate ticket demand.
2. BUILD A POWERHOUSE PROGRAM: For DU to stay a powerhouse and for the sport to continue to grow, building a larger stadium will help program results with a better game day atmosphere, fan comfort and better recruiting. New seating options could include adding a second deck on the current stadium, adding a grandstand on the north side (must deal with water drainage ditch there), add seats behind the East goal (Ritchie Center hillside) or behind the West goal, assuming a solution could be worked out with Centennial Halls, or some combination of these.
3. BUILD FOR FUTURE: Lacrosse is a booming sport, and there may come a time someday when the DU women’s program also needs more seats, as well as hosting other lacrosse events. Soccer growth is another factor to consider, as DU’s top 20 soccer programs may outgrow the current Ciber Field at some point, necessitating more seating. It may be better in the long term to build a 5,000-10,000 seat on-campus stadium that can host soccer, too, on either site. Having a larger outdoor stadium on campus may attract more non-lacrosse events to campus including athletics, concerts, political events, etc.
The Anti-Expansion argument:1. LACK OF HOME GAMES. It’s hard to justify stadium expansion with only 5-7 DU men’s home lacrosse games per year that require more then 2,000 seats. That’s not many games.
2. COST: This project would need a big donor - it’s probably at least a $2 million - $10 million project, depending on scope and building quality of expansion. Adding more bleachers is one thing, but building to DU’s typical campus quality standards is expensive. Recovering costs on ticket revenue won’t happen due to low prices for lacrosse and short home schedules. It would need to be seen as an investment
3. WHAT IF DEMAND SLIDES? The Pioneers may not always need a larger stadium if the program declines in effectiveness or popularity.
4. CAMPUS DYNAMIC: The tight footprint of the site, parking limitations, traffic and neighbor concerns have already strained some relations. Could the campus handle thousands more fans on game day/nights?
5. OFF-CAMPUS SOLUTIONS:
There are many alternatives to house lacrosse games in the Denver area, but the big downside is the loss of the on-campus game experience. Since the student tailgates have made DU game day into one of the best lacrosse atmospheres in the NCAA, this is an important consideration. Nevertheless, there are other game sites:
Sports Authority Field at Mile High has hosted DU games for years and has good transit ease, tailgate facilities and is owned by lacrosse lover and Broncos/Denver Outlaws owner Pat Bowlen, who despite being afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, still sits is on the DU board. The downside of this stadium is that 76,000 seats looks cavernously empty, even with 15,000 lacrosse fans attending.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is the perfect, modern size at 18,000 seats, but its very far from the DU Campus, has poor transit options and Stan Kronke owns it, not Pat Bowlen, so there is that political issue.
The Denver Public Schools high school football stadium is just across I-25 from the DU campus and holds up to 5,000 people. Stutler Bowl (7,000 capacity) at Cherry Creek high school in Englewood is also an option. But these are high school facilities, may be hard to for DU to schedule as a secondary tenant and the the fields have multiple sports markings, which are unpleasant for spectators.
All in all, it’s a situation that merits deeper discussion.
What do you think?