College NCAA

Low Final Four Lacrosse Attendance: ONE REASON

Duke Beats Syracuse 16-10 For Division 1 title.

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…

BIG REASONS

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?

SMALL REASONS

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.

About the author

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

7 Comments

  • Great article and completely agree. I used to love to go to the games but now I cant justify the ticket prices let alone parking and gas to get there, especially when all I want to see is the D1 game.

  • Bingo…supply and demand. Screw with a market and you get an inefficient market.

  • Well said, Sea Dub.

    I attended this weekend’s games and had a blast. The parking lot was full of great tailgates, corporate sponsored events, giveaways and live music. Plenty of current pro and past college greats were around enjoying the festivities as well. The venue that Philadelphia and Drexel provided was top notch. And of course, all of the games were fun and entertaining to watch.

    Then I checked the ol’ bank statement this morning. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. $110 per ticket for 3 days (x’s 2 because I brought my better half), plus food, transportation, parking, and hotel room set me back about $800 for the weekend. I’m seriously considering not going to to next year’s final four. I have gone every year since the games were at Rutgers in 2003. I guess it was fun while it lasted.

  • $20 for a game is not so bad. A movie at iMax runs $15. On the other hand $55 for parking, yikes and selling mainly as an $85.00 package may not be good marketing. As I sat in the comfort of my chair on the west coast, I wondered why the crowd was not bigger. As much as lacrosse is growing across the country in high school programs and MCLA, it faces very tough competition from pro baseball, basketball and football. The American big three. Think about the fall and all the packed college football stadiums. $80 for a ticket in Autzen Stadium for an Oregon game, that is chump change.
    I don’t think there is a quick fix or a magic bullet, that will fill the stadiums for lacrosse games. More likely it will be a long slow process of education of fans. I thought the lacrosse matches were very exciting, both to see Cornell jump ahead, fall behind and almost make it back and to see Duke overcome an incredibly slow start to come out the Champions. The quality of the play was great and the pace of the games seemed much improved with the new rules.

  • I only started playing the game my freshmen year in high school six years ago. I love the game and always wanted to go to the final four (mainly when it was in bmore because that’s where i live) but price has always kept me away and I wouldn’t have had to pay for hotel, food and parking charges either. Need to take it back to a college stadium and/or lower prices. Allow the game to grow a NFL, NHL or MLB size fan base before charging their type of prices.

  • We’ve been going with a large group(30-40 people) from our local youth and HS program for the last 6 years and have had a blast every year. Even when you include food, hotel, gas, rental car (always rent a huge SUV every year for tailgate supplies etc…) it still ends up being a great value. 5 games for $110, how is that not a bargain? This year we ended up getting seats in the first row at the 4o yard line. Our kids had a chance to celebrate with the Duke players and fans after the D1 final. It was awesome!

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