Editor’s Note: We sent Alex Scriffiano to the Independence Classic a little over a week ago in Philadelphia, and while he had his storyline all mapped out, something else happened, and his article went in a different direction. We think it’s incredibly interesting and insightful, and we hope you enjoy it.
I had it all planned out. I was going to write about the glorious return of the lacrosse season for 2013. Sure, the season has already been underway for over a month now, but 3 consecutive D1 games on a bright sunny afternoon is a celebrated start for me
My story was going to be about how Philadelphia is now a lacrosse community to rival that of Baltimore and Long Island. I was going to talk about the resounding success of the first annual Whitman’s Sampler Independence Classic.
Unfortunately, fellow lax rats, this article is not about that. This is about the colossal let down and disappointment of the day, and how we can hopefully learn from what happened in Philly.
The task was simple: Head to Chester, PA for the inaugural Independence Classic to get the real “game day” experience and report on it. The day featured St. John’s v. Syracuse at 12:00, UPenn v. Villanova at 2:30, and PSU v. Lehigh at 5:00. Three great games in one day. East success, right?
The games themselves were all very exciting with up and down action, great goals, good story lines, and plenty of highlight reel plays. The weather was also quite perfect; sunny and in the upper 50’s with a slight breeze. All the planned events were on time and proceeded without a hitch (no power outages either, looking at you Superdome).
In fact, I can not say enough good things about the venue. (in fact one of the first thoughts I had on the day was that the MLL should take notes on the venue selection).And each person was treated to a small sample box of chocolate courtesy of Whitman’s on his or her way into the stadium. That was a nice perk, and no matter what anyone says, I definitely didn’t sneak an extra box!
This all sounds good. So what was the problem?
That is the total number of people that bought tickets to the day’s event, and many of themm just stayed to watch one game. That means, using some very rough math, that each game had roughly 1,800 people in the stands.
CW recently wrote about how it’s the people that make an event, referring to the fun and successful men’s club tournaments held in Louisiana and the Czech Republic that he has played in. I think the same is true for events attended as a spectator. Without kids throwing around in the parking lot, tailgates, and some rowdy college student fans, the energy in the stadium was noticeably absent.
Now, I am generally content just watching lacrosse for entertainment, but these types of events need to be more than that. They need to be a party, a barbecue, an event that even that the casual fan itches for. They should be events that your mom, girlfriend, grandma, and baseball playing friends can enjoy, along with the rest of us, who just love the game. Think of the Daytona 500, or of the Super Bowl… Obviously, I’m not suggesting that college lacrosse should have events of that magnitude, but lacrosse can learn a thing or two regarding the general atmosphere of those occasions.
So, what was the cause of the low attendance?
My best (and only) guess is that most lacrosse fans had their own lacrosse related commitments. Games, practices, and other lacrosse obligations seem to take up most people’s Saturdays. Where do college games fit in there? Of course, I would love to hear some thoughts or other possible reasons for the small crowds.
We need this attendance problem solved as quickly as possible. We have seen tremendous growth in lacrosse over the last 15 – 20 years. If we hope for the game to continue growing, we must attract more people to the stadiums. Low turnouts for these events have been the norm lately. The NCAA and college lacrosse hope to get the attendance numbers back on track for this year’s championship.
The change of location from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough last year to Lincoln Financial in Philly this year is supposed to do the trick. If this past event’s numbers are any indication of the crowds we can expect in Philadelphia this Memorial Day, we will have a lot of work to do for next year.
I would like to give a big thanks to CW for allowing me to continue to stay involved with the sport that I love so much (despite the countless time he must spend editing my writing and my average at best lax skills). Please stayed tuned for updates on the Boston Megamen and the AH Memorial in Prague towards the end of April.