SBD/August 21, 2013/Colleges

NCAA Considering New Venues For Lacrosse Championships To Combat Attendance Woes

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NCAA men's lacrosse championships must be held at venues seating 40,000 fans
The NCAA in response to an attendance downturn at men's lacrosse championship weekends is "now open to allowing non-NFL stadiums to serve as hosts in upcoming years," according to Edward Lee of the Baltimore SUN. The development comes "on the heels of three consecutive years of reduced attendance." Attendance at this year's D-I semifinals and final at Lincoln Financial Field was "the lowest since the final four began rotating" between M&T Bank Stadium, Gillette Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field in '03. NCAA Associate Dir of Championships & Alliances Anthony Holman noted that the organization "still has a 40,000-seat requirement for host venues," but added that that figure "could be lowered while accounting for suites and club-level seating." He said, "I think we would still be looking for the same things like a facility that can accommodate the number of games that we're going to play, the field, the surface, the hotels, restaurants and all of the other amenities that go along with hosting a championship." Venues like Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis and Byrd Stadium in College Park "could serve as venues." However, Holman said, "The thing that you lose sometimes when you go to collegiate campuses is the atmosphere ... sometimes you (lose) that identity of a desirable travel destination for those who are coming in for the championship." Lee notes moving the Final Four from Memorial Day weekend also has "been discussed." But Holman said that "feedback from fans on that topic has been mixed" (Baltimore SUN, 8/21).

TOUGH SPOT: Holman noted that "ticket prices, the date of the event, the impact of increased television exposure and a tough economy will all be evaluated." LACROSSE MAGAZINE's Corey McLaughlin noted ticket prices have "roughly doubled in the last eight years." Ticket prices in past bid cycles have been "set as a result of revenue guarantees by hosts to the NCAA." Univ. of Denver coach Bill Tierney said, "The truth of the matter is those guarantees got a little exorbitant and it meant ticket prices got exorbitant." McLaughlin noted increased, quality TV exposure for the sport "often is cited as a reason for the championship weekend attendance decline." ESPN Communications Manager Mike Humes said, "If we say we'll stop televising it, people will go, 'Why aren't you trying to grow the sport?'" ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer John Vassallo said, "We hate when we're producing a game and we see an empty seat. Every producer at ESPN would love the event they produce to have as many people there as possible" (LAXMAGAZINE.com, 8/12).
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