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2013 College Lacrosse Preview: NCAA Quarterfinals, Championship Weekend Attendance Concerns

The trend hasn't been good, but is 2013 the year when the tide changes?

Hunter Martin

You've probably seen the numbers before -- they're likely burned into your brain like seeing grandma come out of the shower -- but just in case you haven't, here they are again:

  • 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)
  • 2012: Total attendance -- 79,959 (Gillette Stadium)

That's Championship Weekend attendance over the last six seasons, a period in which lacrosse has steadily grown across the country and yet college lacrosse's diamond has seen its shine slowly fade. There has been all kinds of speculation as to why attendance has decreased over the years -- laziness, television, marquee events during the year that have drawn away ticket dollars, location, timing of the semifinal and title games, ticket prices, field composition, marketing, people were busy washing their hair, etc. -- but there are no easy answers in this situation. Folks simply aren't attending Championship Weekend like they once did, and that's a problem for what was rapidly becoming one of the NCAA's signature spring events.

2013 may or may not provide a recess for the attendance decline. Philadelphia, in the two seasons that Lincoln Financial Field has hosted the event, has done well to bring bodies through the gates: In 2005, 111,247 showed up for the weekend(a then-record); in 2006, Philadelphia did even better, packing in 120,614 (the first Championship Weekend to break 120,000 and the third-highest total ever). With its geographic location almost perfect for college lacrosse's finest moment -- right between the Northeast and Baltimore hot beds -- Philadelphia has all kinds of potential to get the event to where it once was. The issue, though, is whether this potential is realized, and if so, how it impacts the games that feed into the Final Four.

Byrd Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium are each hosting quarterfinals double headers the week prior to Championship Weekend. Are folks that are located in those areas -- the Midwest and the Maryland area -- going to take in two weekends of games, at the prices these games are set at, and pull back-to-back weekends of watching college lacrosse? I'm skeptical. The travel -- and costs -- here are real, and my gut tells me that if people can do the easy thing -- staying close to home to watch games -- and create an excuse around not doing consecutive weekends of lacrosse they'll do it. The loss of bodies from the Midwest and Maryland area are strong possibilities (especially if the matchups in the quarterfinals are strong), and it could impact how Philadelphia gets butts in the seats despite being ideally located relative to lacrosse-interested parties.

Or, of course, the reverse could happen: With juice around Philadelphia rising and people looking to make that their trip of choice this spring, will it deflate potential attendance at Byrd Stadium and Lucas Oil Field? The games in Indianapolis are important to gauge just what kind of draw non-traditional areas can pull together for big NCAA Tournament games; these quarterfinals games may be a solid test case for whether the NCAA attempts to pursue quarterfinals matches (or Championship Weekend efforts) in Denver or beyond. If Indianapolis has its attendance based stripped due to the allure of Philadelphia, what kind of impact does that have down the road? It's unclear, but it probably isn't good.

There's a relationship here that exists outside of the noted myriad of prior concerns. How quarterfinals sites do may be attributable to how Championship Weekend performs; how Championship Weekend performs could have an impact on what quarterfinals sites are able to accomplish. The potential for high volume attendance is there for both Championship Weekend and the rest of the NCAA Tournament, but there is still concern on how this is all going to work out.

So, how do you think Championship Weekend will stack up this season? Vote in the poll and leave a comment, friend.