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2012 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: What Will Attendance Look Like at Gillette Stadium?

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It's pretty nice to write a piece about Championship Weekend and wonder about the volume of attendance and not whether there will be any attendance at all. I'm not sure that NCAA men's water polo -- The Future of Human Sporting Existence (Maybe) TM -- can say they're in the same position as college lacrosse. That's just a hunch, though.

Last year, after a pretty dismal attendance figure for Memorial Monday, Keeley penned a piece that tried to pry apart the reasons for the decreased number of butts in the seats at M&T Bank Stadium. A lot of his thoughts probably still apply today, but there is a freaky trend happening not just for championship game attendance, but for overall attendance:

  • 2007: Total attendance -- 123,225 (M&T Bank Stadium)
  • 2008: Total attendance -- 121,511 (Gillette Stadium)
  • 2009: Total attendance -- 102,601 (Gillette Stadium)
  • 2010: Total attendance -- 102,219 (M&T Bank Stadium)
  • 2011: Total attendance -- 98,786 (M&T Bank Stadium)

It doesn't seem to matter where the NCAA holds the lacrosseapalooza, attendance is trending down for Championship Weekend. I guess you could pin a lot of this on the economy, but total numbers are still going the wrong way for what is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Or maybe people just hate sitting in plastic seats? I'll have to consult science on that last hypothesis.

I have a sneaking suspicion -- which differs from a conspiracy theory only in that a sneaking suspicion doesn't involve standing on a street corner with flyers -- that Championship Weekend up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, may have a bit of a draw issue this year. To wit:

  • Gillette Stadium is a bit of an outpost, located somewhere near nowhere and having all the allure of punching children for sport. People have, for whatever reason, become incredibly lazy by nature (Thanks, television!) and if they can avoid all the traffic woes of traveling to and from Foxborough, they probably will.
  • The northeastern contenders -- Massachusetts, Syracuse, Cornell, Princeton, etc. -- with their voluminous fanbases have already been relegated to "Did not finish" status. Instead, the tournament is left with a school from the midwest with a huge football following, a small school from Baltimore, a huge state institution from a location about 400 miles away from the Bay State, and a private school that didn't exactly draw a large cult up to PPL Park this past weekend outside of Philadelphia. It's an odd confluence of participants, none of which hold a lacrosse base that maintains easy travel options to the building. This reliance on the locals to populate the seats is a dangerous proposition.
  • Outside of the northeastern contenders, the Final Four is missing a lot of the blue bloods that carry with them a fervent supporter base -- Johns Hopkins, Virginia, etc. Without cornerstone schools, will those fanbases still travel to Providence and Boston's backyard?

The weather looks to be generally nice if not somewhat dodgy this weekend, hopefully pushing some folks to jump on their scooters and head out for the games. Until it happens, though, I remain skeptical. What do you knuckleheads think? The poll, and the comments, are yours.