A big topic of discussion this Spring has been the relatively low attendance at the NCAA Quarterfinals, and Final Four weekend. The usual outlets are offering the usual banal reasons, but doing little to actually think about what is going wrong here. Not a huge shock, even if I still expect more from them.
So let’s think just a little more creatively, and discuss where some of the mistakes are actually being made, instead of just rehashing old excuses, and couching every criticism in “People are saying“, all while subtly trying to make Baltimore seem like the best option in the future.
There are some relatively simple issues at play here, and it always shocks me that certain sources just can’t grasp what is happening…
Here are the big reasons why attendance is going down:
It’s Too Expensive – Tickets cost too much money. People love to hint at this, but few have the stones to come out and say it: an $85 ticket for the Final Four is nothing short of OFFENSIVE. $55 for parking is a JOKE. An OFFENSIVE JOKE. Say it with me.
As a fan, I wouldn’t go to the Final Four for this reason alone. I feel like I’m being gouged by the NCAA here, and I don’t like it one bit. Oh, now I need tickets for my three kids too? Well, now I am spending $395 JUST TO GET IN THE GAME. This price gouging is AWFUL, and it is the number one reason people are not showing up. The fact that no one else will directly call the NCAA out on this practice is shameful, and shows a real lack in any journalistic integrity. This is not a time for silk gloves, it is a time to be a journalist.
No Pre-Sale One-Game Tickets – I get it, you want to sell ticket packages, but if someone wants to go to one game, they should be able to do that. If I only want to see the D2 game, or D1 games where MY team is playing, I will not pay $85 to do so. I know there are extra seats in there, the NCAA knows there are extra seats, but they won’t let me catch the one game I care about?
Yes, you can buy one game tickets when you walk up to the event for $20 (reports indicate this is true), but it’s not promoted as an option, and can not be done online, or before hand. Also, $20 is still pretty steep, is it not? It’s ONE lacrosse game, and like I said earlier, it’s not selling out. Tack on $55 for parking, and that ticket is now $75. Not a deal at all. Add in absorbent food pricing, and you’re topping $100 for a single lacrosse game.
Oh, this whole thing is a fan experience? Are you sure about that? It doesn’t seem that way to the fans. It seems like a money maker, and little else. $140 for a ticket and parking is a dead giveaway.
VERY BASIC Supply And Demand – This must have been said at a Final Four event meeting back in 2001-2:
I know! We have a very well-attended but not capacity event, so let’s move it to a bigger location, with more seats, and we’ll charge more money, while we keep the fan base relatively stagnant. That will work, right?
GENIUS! Someone needs to take Micro/Macroeconomics 101 again. More seats, higher prices, same amount of demand? That means too much supply. Come on NCAA and the source who shall not be named, this is really basic college level learning stuff! HOW ARE YOU MISSING THIS?
Better TV? Sure! The TV experience is better than ever, but people are not NOT going because the game is on TV and ESPN uses SkyCam. They are not going because the game on TV is free, and the game in person costs you an arm and a leg. Better TV makes it easier, but going to an event in person has a certain draw to it. Always has. The real issue here is cost, and TV don’t cost nothin’! It’s used as a nice excuse smoke screen though by some.
More Lacrosse NOW – More lacrosse is good because it grows the base of fans, but more lacrosse can also fragment the community. Last year, in Boston, the local HS teams were still playing games when the FF came to town. Of course few people even mention that. In Philly, the public schools were still playing, and the same is true in New Jersey with the privates and publics. NY State playoffs are ALSO going on right now. Are kids going to miss their own games and practices to go to the Final Four? NOPE. Are their parents and families and friends? NOPE.
The above also has to do with location. Why pick a location where HS lacrosse is still going on in a major way? How do you expect kids to play in THEIR games, and attend your games, at the same time. We’re talking basics of temporal reality here: it’s impossible.
There is more lacrosse than ever, more high school lacrosse than ever, and longer seasons than ever. Then when you think of camps, and all the elite travel teams, tryouts, etc, it makes perfect sense why people no longer have the time to GO watch a game. Again, the source takes no responsibility for their part in this, and just throws their hands up like they’re confused.
Think about it, just a bit. When there is a highly promoted event almost every weekend of the Spring, does the Final Four retain all of its luster? Why go to the FF, I already went to the Big City Classic. I saw lacrosse in a big stadium already this year, so the FF is out. It makes sense and yet it is rarely talked about. Wonder why?
The Low Attendance issue is actually very simple.
It has EVERYTHING to do with ludicrous ticket prices, fan-unfriendly pricing schemes for ticket packages, and stadiums that are too big to create an intimate event. By keeping with this methodology over the past ten years, and allowing more large scale events to place during the year, the NCAA has driven fans away from the Final Four in droves.
Lacrosse is growing, but if the fans aren’t kept happy and excited, your event will suffer. The Final Four Attendance Issue demonstrates this perfectly. The above may seem harsh, but I’ve been to four or five Final Fours in my day, from the late 90s to a couple years back, and my desire to attend in person has gone down with time, and it’s got NOTHING to do with the play on the field.
I simply won’t pay the NFL level ticket prices to be in a third full stadium. I hate shelling out $50 to park my car in a giant lot. I don’t like paying $10 for a coke, and $8 for a hot dog. I don’t like lacrosse being “just another event” in a stadium… I want it to be their biggest event of the year, like it was at Rutgers, or down at Byrd. I’m tired of pro stadiums and pro pricing. I want lacrosse back, and I want it back in the passionate, personal way it used to be done.
The sport may reach a point when we need a 60,000 person stadium for the championships, but until we start FILLING 30,000 person stadiums, are we not getting way ahead of ourselves? Lower the costs, make it a true experience, and attendance will climb again, no matter where the event is held.