Nearly two months after announcing it would convene a panel to study what it called a "disturbing trend" of declining attendance at NCAA Division I men's lacrosse Championship Weekend, the Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Coaches Association has issued recommendations for solving the problem.
The group's white paper, which was submitted to the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Committee on Aug. 3, lists skyrocketing ticket prices (which have nearly doubled in the past seven years, from $60 for an all-session pass in 2006 to $110 in 2013), competition from other lacrosse events on Memorial Day weekend (such as youth tournaments and high school playoffs) and a lack of interactive options through social media and other technology among factors causing fans to stay home.
The 2013 championships at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field drew a total attendance of 56,668 (28,444 for the semifinals and 28,224 for the title game). Six years earlier in Baltimore, the announced crowd of 100,447 -- about 44 percent more fans than showed up this year -- set a record for sport's final four.
Here are the IMLCA's recommendations:
1. Reduce the hosts' financial guarantee for the championship, thus providing the hosts the opportunity to establish lower ticket prices. The NCAA should take the position that selling 1,000 tickets at $10 is better than 500 tickets at $20. Understanding that the NCAA, the host venue and host institution would need to work together to attract the incremental fan base, it would be important to promote the event as a "can't miss" family weekend.
2. Establish college-student ticket prices. The NCAA should consider allowing host institutions to create college-student ticket prices that would be valid on event day with a college ID.
3. Create site-specific logos. The championship logo must be a destination-based design to help promote the "can't miss" impression. The generic event logo the NCAA created in 2009 does not help sell the event on a continuous basis.
4. Create an in-stadium announcing crew to provide live, in-game analysis and interviews that would be shown on the stadium video boards. Live interviews of coaches before the game, halftime. Analysis during timeouts and between quarters. Interviews with non-playing coaches who could provide insight as to strategies each team may try to utilize. Create content similar to what fans watching on television are seeing at home.
5. The NCAA should continue to provide resources to host institutions to create an in-depth grass-roots promotional program. Lacrosse is a niche sport. As much as we celebrate the growth of lacrosse, it still is very small compared with other sports. The local and regional grass-roots program is extremely important to successfully selling tickets for the championship.
In May, The Sun's Edward Lee looked at possible reasons for the attendance decline and suggested a solution: Move the championships to smaller venues such as Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis (34,000 seats), Rutgers’ High Point Solutions Stadium in New Brunswick, N.J., (52,000) and Maryland’s Byrd Stadium in College Park (54,000).
Here's a look at the attendance figures since the NCAA moved Championship Weekend to NFL stadiums for the 2003 season:
NCAA Division I Championship Weekend attendance
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