The MLL Championship Game will be played on Saturday, in Kennesaw, GA and the contest will be broadcast live on television via CBS Sports at 7pm ET. Major League Lacrosse’s title game features the Rochester Rattlers (the top regular season team) and the Denver Outlaws (the second best regular season team), and whoever wins will lay claim to the Steinfeld Cup, which is a shiny chrome tower of a trophy.
While I’m obviously curious who will win the game, what I really want to know is this: a) are YOU going to the game in person? Or b) will YOU watch the game on TV?
It’s a fair question! In past years, the MLL Championship Game has drawn relatively large and small crowds alike, sometimes at the same venue of use, and sometimes with the same teams playing. What can we expect for 2014? Will people show up in Georgia? Will TV viewership be better or worse? And is Major League Lacrosse beginning to create some serious traction within the larger sporting world?
MLL Championship Game Preview
The largest ever crowd for an MLL Championship game was in 2008, when 8,481 fans came out in Boston to watch Rochester take on Denver. Those two teams are playing again this weekend, so that’s a decent anecdotal sign. Of course Boston also owns all three of the highest recorded crowds in MLL Championship Game history, and that can’t be forgotten.
The smallest crowd ever was last year (2013) in Chester, PA when only 3,892 people came out for the show. Like Georgia, there was no MLL team in PA last year, so it can be argued that’s an anecdotally bad sign. Of course the 5,500+ people who came out in Ohio in 2002 make the fact less valuable because of how young the league was back then AND the fact that Ohio didn’t have a team before 2012.
So what do we actually know? Typically (10 out of 13 times), at least 5,000 fans will come out for the game, but no more than 7,500 will show up. 2013 was the only attendance record year showing less than 5,000 fans at any title game. 2008 and 2004 (when Boston played at home) were the only 7,500+ years, and both topped 8,000 fans. So our baseline of success is pretty much set at:
If less than 5,000 people come out, it was a bad showing.
If more than 7,500 people come out, it was a great showing.
If Goldilocks comes out, and you end up somewhere in the middle, it was an average showing, which met expectations.
So what happens in Kennesaw, GA this year? Do we see a new record on either end? Do we see another average year of fan turnout? Could we hit double digit thousands (10k+) for the first time EVER?
Let’s answer that last question first… NO. We will not see 10,000 fans or more at Kennesaw’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Why can I say that with certainty? Because the stadium only holds about 8,300 people for sporting events. This also means the MLL will NOT set a record for title game attendance, because that records sits at 8,481. Our two best options are now not options.
Ok, I can deal with that. It’s not the end of the world, and if Major League Lacrosse can sell out this event, 2014 could still be the second most highly attended title game ever. That’s not too shabby! But will it happen?
The last time Kennesaw saw a game, 4,417 fans came out to watch the Rochester Rattlers take on the Boston Cannons. That game was played in early June, and was the first time a pro lacrosse game had been played in Georgia. 2013 averages saw MLL teams hitting around 5,050 fans per game, which is 600 more than came out in GA. On the other hand, Rochester hosted a game in 2013 where only 1,991 fans came out, and Kennesaw more than doubled that number without truly having a dog in the fight.
So what will happen on Saturday night? Will we see a solid number of people come out? Will it be just another average night of attendance? Is there ANYTHING that makes this game potentially different?
The ONE thing that I can think of on the positive side is that Kennesaw State University is already up and running for the year. Classes are in session RIGHT NOW, and students have once again flooded the campus. If the MLL can sell “last minute tickets” tomorrow, on campus, and really draw in the college kids (the stadium does sell beer), then we could see a big number. If not? I doubt we’ll see anything truly out of the ordinary.
My guess is that we see a number between 5,000 and 6,000 fans. If sales are slower than I imagine, like in 2013, we could easily get below 5,000. If Major League Lacrosse can interest college students, or guys like Liam Banks have been burning down the internet with emails to locals, we could easily see our third 8,000+ title game attendance number. At the end of the day, it really comes down to whether or not the MLL has made their case to the local population, as few people are traveling from out of state for this one (literally no one I know is flying in for the game). I’m actually really curious to see if college aged students or casual lacrosse fans in Georgia will show up for this event!
And this all brings me to my next question… will YOU, or anyone you know, watch the MLL Championship Game on TV? I’m definitely going to tape it, but I can’t watch it live because of prior obligations. Will this be the way most people see the game? Via DVR? Is that just the way it is in late Summer? Or will you actually sit down and watch it live? I can’t answer this one for you, so let me know in the comments. I’m insanely curious to know what YOUR plan is! Seriously, I am. I find it interesting, it’s not creepy, ok?
The 2014 MLL Championship will NOT break any upper level records, because that is impossible. But the game could draw a really solid number of fans, and if the stadium sold out, that would be a first. Will we see that happen? Or will we be happy with 5,000 spectators at a title game? Will you watch the game on TV? Will you DVR it, or watch it live?
Lots of questions, very few answers, but plenty to keep an eye on.
In the end, I’m just hoping for a good game between two great teams. Thankfully, that’s not all we get. We also get a glimpse into the potential future (MLL expansion to GA?) and a look at how popular the game is becoming outside of where it is played professionally. Is the league making strides in that regard?
We’ll know more when the MLL Championship Game numbers drop.