Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The NCAA Falling In Love with Football Stadiums?

Brian:  It's official.  The NCAA is falling in love with hosting tournament games in football stadiums.

I don't think it started with this game but I certainly took notice of this fact back at the beginning of the college hoops season when North Carolina spanked Michigan State at Ford Field.  Did you happen to notice all those empty seats at these NCAA tournament sites?  Did you even realize that they were held at football stadiums?
  • First and Second Rounds - held at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, home of the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins
  • Midwest Regional final - held at Lucas Oil Stadium, the new home of the Indianapolis Colts
  • West Regional final - held at The University of Phoenix Stadium, the new home of the Arizona Cardinals
  • Final Four - held at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions
But why stop there?  Check out the sites for the Final Four through 2016:
  • 2010 - Lucas Oil Field
  • 2011 - Reliant Stadium (home of the Texans)
  • 2012 - Louisiana Superdome
  • 2013 - Georgia Dome
  • 2014 - New Cowboys Stadium
  • 2015 - Lucas Oil Field
  • 2016 - Reliant Stadium
Seems sort of crazy to have these games in these venues when a) you can't possibly sell out the place b) I can't imagine you can create a great game atmosphere and c) in some of the cheap seats it must be really, really tough to follow the action.  The East Regional final between Pittsburgh and Villanova was a college basketball game for the ages, yet I'm told local Bostonians could have gotten to the final by purchasing relatively cheap tickets the day of the game.  And the TD Banknorth Garden can't hold more than 19,000 people for hoops.

Jeff, do you like this new trend, or would you rather have college hoops biggest stage played in ... well, basketball arenas?

Jeff: I love the trend. Absolutely love it. The game between Michigan State and North Carolina earlier this year was probably a disapointment attendance wise but for the Final Four 72,000 are expected. I think that is awesome. Also, recall when Michigan State played Kentucky at Ford Field I believe in 2006 and they set the record which still stands for basketball game attendance.

You seem to be critical of this trend having never been to a game in a dome. I attended the ACC tournament this year at the Georgia Dome and it blew away my experience at the Bobcats arena in Charlotte last year.

Brian: OK, granted I have never attended a basketball game at a football stadium, but Ford Field for basketball is totally different from the Georgia Dome for hoops. The Georgia Dome typically seats only 26,000 for basketball which is a little more than your average NBA arena, and only 5,000 more than the Dean Dome's capacity. Ford Field sits 78,000 for basketball, an additional 13k on top of the stadium's capacity for football. The two are in a whole different ballpark.

Jeff: Well, one regional final site every year is the following year's Final Four site so that the host site can iron out any problems before they become the stage for one of the biggest events in sports.

Brian:  Not only has college basketball caught the football stadium bug, but college hockey is starting to follow suit.  The 2010 Frozen Four will be held at Ford Field in Detroit.  Capacity 70,000.  To make matters worse, they will be placing the rink in the middle of the stadium.  I will be shocked if they can get more than 50,000 fans to a Frozen Four, even if Michigan or Michigan State is in the final four.  What they should have done is placed the rink at one end of the stadium and curtained off half the field.  Guaranteed this will be a decision the NCAA either regrets or looks back on after they start selling tickets for the event.  Jeff, do you like this trend catching on for college hockey's biggest stage?

Jeff:  Hockey I am not so sure about.  A Final Four for basketball is going to sell out the Rose Bowl if they could have it there.  College hockey, not so much.

Brian:  Sell out the Rose Bowl? Seems a bit of a stretch but I'll take your word for it.


Winfield Featherston said...

Jeff I have to completely disagree with you. I was at both the ACCT in Charlotte and at the ACCT here in Atlanta and I was greatly disappointed in the football field effect. Too many echoes and too many empty bright red seats. Wasn't too thrilled about it honestly.

Bird said...

When we played UConn at the Dome back in '06, it was great though. So I don't know. I think the big thing is selling as many seats as possible right now and going to the best $ venue.

I also think they're trying to use the GA Dome as much as possible 'cause the Falcons are thinking about moving. So any revenue they can generate before any move is huge right now.

Winfield Featherston said...

Hype could have a lot to do with it, I'll give you that. I was only at the ACCTs for the first two days. I am sure as the Tournament gets closer to the championship, the atmosphere builds up. But still, I like actual basketball arenas better.

furrer4heisman said...

This is hardly a new trend. The last non-dome to host the Final Four was Meadowlands in 1996. After that, with the new minimum seating guidelines for the FF, it will never again be held in a non-dome.

I'm not sure how I like the new idea of putting the floor in the middle. I'd need to see a game with that set up before making a decision. Some domes are better than others for FF. Of the one's I've been to:

Trop Field: Horrible. After this the NCAA said it would never go back, which is why all NCAA games in Tampa are now at St. Pete Times Forum. I sat behind one of the foul poles for the games.

Georgia Dome: Not much better. Anything above the first level was too far away from the court.

Superdome: Maybe the worst of the bunch. No one was near the floor. No one was happy.

Alamodome: A great place to watch basketball because the place was built straight up instead of out like Atlanta and New Orleans.

Edward Jones Dome: Bad. Upper deck wasn't back as much as ATL and NO, but it was higher.

RCA Dome: The best of the bunch. Only two decks and they were right on top of each other. Even being in the upper deck you didn't feel far from the court.

Brian said...

Yes, hardly a new trend but (and I could be wrong) I think having college basketball games in football stadiums for regular season games and for opening round NCAA tournament games is a relatively new trend. Certainly for NCAA hockey games it is.

I understand the financial considerations of having the Final Four in a large stadium but there is a way to price final four tickets appropriately if you wanted to have the games in a smaller, NBA basketball arena.

I mean, look at that picture! You would need binoculars to even be able to point out Hasheem Thabeet on the court, who is like 7'13".

I can just imagine the next generation of college hoops fans reminiscing about being at the next great, Laettner-esque, NCAA tournament buzzer beater game but complaining that they couldn't really see the final play because they were sitting too far away from the court.

Gone are the days of the Final Four being played in a 20,000 seat arena. And I, for one, am not too happy about this.

Winfield Featherston said...

Yeah I'm pretty sure it's new for conference tourneys and early rounds of the NCAAT, which I think is worse. When you are trying to sell these teams, one way of selling is making the ticket a hot commodity and making it popular. Having an overflow of seats for two unfamiliar sounding teams that are not from the area playing in a football stadium doesn't exactly make me think of excitement.

Raj said...

im with brian on this one. Basketball in football arenas is absurd. Maybe for the final four you can fill a smaller stadium. No early rounds should ever be in football stadiums, they should be in traditional basketball arenas. Instead of pricing out people, the NCAA really needs to focus on making them affordable so you can fill out a stadium, rather than selling seats where you cant see the game.

Erik said...

Guys, Syracuse has played every hoop game in the Carrier Dome for ages. It works ok when you put the court down in an end zone so there is natural seating around 3/4 of the court, but when you plop it in the middle for a Final Four like this, everyone is so far away that its pretty dub.

mediagiant said...

First of all, it's Lucas Oil Stadium, not Lucas Oil Field. Secondly, they obviously did sell out these stadiums for the Final Four -- all with the basketball court on the 50-yard line instead of the end zone. All of these domes can be configured for full-house basketball (about 70,000) or half-house basketball with the court in the end zone (about 35,000). They can also use the full house but curtain off the upper deck (also about 35,000). I don't know how an end zone setup would work at AT&T Stadium in Dallas because of the giant hanging scoreboard. I can't imagine that the high seats in the dome for these basketball games (especially in the full-house setup) would be worth buying because they are so far away from the court. Just to say you were there, I guess, and watch the jumbotron. All those empty seats you saw were for the regional games (Sweet 16/Elite 8) in the full-house configuration.