Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, Chicago's Soldier Field and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., are the finalists to host the 2015 to 2018 men's lacrosse championships, the NCAA announced Wednesday.
Notably absent was the state of Maryland; Baltimore has hosted the event five times in the past decade.
The NCAA said this summer that in response to declining attendance at the event, it would consider holding the event at smaller venues, but Wednesday's announcement indicates that it will continue to hold the championships at NFL stadiums. It has done so since 2003.
This year's Division I, II and III championships drew a total of 79,179 fans to Lincoln Financial Field. That's about 46 percent fewer fans than attended the 2007 Championship Weekend, which set a record for the sport by drawing 146,003 to M&T Bank Stadium. In August, the Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Coaches Association issued a paper in which it suggested ways to boost the flagging attendance.
The state of Maryland had announced its intention to bid for the 2015-2018 championships, and Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (about 34,000 seats) in Annapolis and Byrd Stadium (54,000) in College Park seemed to be logical matches.
"We've had our most successful championship in Baltimore," Anthony Holman, the NCAA championship administrator for Division I men's lacrosse, said in August. "So I think everybody feels that is a premier venue. The city, the Ravens organization, the entire community has done really well for our championship, and anytime they put in a bid, they're a likely and viable candidate."
After its 2003 renovation, Soldier Field is the smallest stadium in the NFL, with a capacity of about 61,500. Lincoln Financial Field seats about 68,500, while Gillette Stadium holds about 68,750.
The possibility of Chicago as host is in line with the NCAA's goal of expanding the sport geographically. Last season, more than 7,700 fans attended two quarterfinals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the first-ever quarterfinal site not on the East Coast.
Note: WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (North Carolina), Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., (Northwestern) and PPL Park in Chester, Pa., (Saint Joseph's) were named finalists for the women's championship.
Attendance figures for men's Championship Weekend
*Total figure includes attendance at Division II and III championship games.
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