Despite lower ticket sales for the NCAA men’s lacrosse championships at M&T Bank Stadium than in previous years the event has come to Baltimore, NCAA and Ravens officials said they remain upbeat that the three-day tournament later on Memorial Day weekend will be a success.
Advance sales have surpassed 50,000, according to Ravens vice president of ticket sales and operations Baker Koppelman, which puts the event on pace to match the total attendance figure of 79,179 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia last year.
Replicating the attendance record of 123,225 from the 2007 championships in Baltimore might be unrealistic, but Anthony Holman, the NCAA’s associate director of championships and alliances and the championship administrator for Division I men’s lacrosse, said the ticket sales are encouraging. The event includes the Division I semifinals and final and the Division II and III finals.
“In terms of where we’re pacing compared to where we’ve been in Baltimore before, sure, we want to reach some of those milestones that we’ve had before in the most successful championships that we’ve had there,” he said. “So obviously, that would be a goal. But we’re certainly not disappointed on where we are now. Given that selections [for the 18-team field] are this weekend, we think that those numbers will jump pretty substantially after teams are announced and after we start getting into the games.”
Koppelman attributed the slower pace of ticket sales to a variety of factors, including a long winter that did not put fans in a warmer state of mind.
“I just think there’s been a wait-and-see approach this year, and now that we’ve got the teams being announced this weekend, I think that will start to spur things a little bit,” he said. “Sure, we’d love the number to be higher, but I think our expectations are probably at where they’re at right now, and once we’ve played the last game [on Memorial Day], we hope we will be well ahead of where Philly was last year and try to build this thing back up again.”
Koppelman and Holman said organizers have sought to address concerns fans had about the cost of attending the tournament. Initiatives have included discounts for groups and youth tickets as low as $25, as well as adding an all-star game and an autograph session to ticket purchases.
Ultimately, the attendance figures could be impacted by the Orioles’ announcement that a game against the Cleveland Indians on May 24 will be played at 12:35 p.m. The Division I semifinals that day are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
“It’s certainly not ideal when you start to talk about overlap and folks that potentially could have come to our game or folks that maybe turn away because they think it’s going to be too crowded,” Holman said. “I feel confident in the department of transportation and the Orioles and the Ravens about our parking and the way we’ve carved out some public transportation options so that it’s still going to be a good experience for our fans.”
Since the Orioles and Ravens share parking at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, traffic around the venues could be nightmarish. But Koppelman pointed out that there are 30,000 parking spaces within a one-mile radius of the stadiums.
“I think it’s just a matter of people understanding where those venues are and allowing themselves the flexibility to park and walk a little bit,” he said.
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
Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun