Creating a “New” Omaha in College Sports
Two days ago people who were in Omaha and a select few TV viewers watched as the Arizona Wildcats were crowned champions of the collegiate baseball world. They completed the quest for their first championship since 1986 in Omaha Nebraska the largest town in Nebraska, but more importantly for this argument has been the home the home to the College World Series since 1950. Every year college baseball fans flock to pack the stadium in Omaha which ranks as the 42nd largest city in America, so not exactly the city that never sleeps or a baseball hotbed.
The game of lacrosse is growing rapidly especially at the college level throughout the country. Lacrosse is constantly on a mission to gain more and more respect as a new upcoming sport, it would go a long way for casual fans and avid fans alike to create a permanent home for their Championship Weekend. Although, attendance figures at the Championship Weekend have been declining slowly since the peak in 2007 at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium where 5 lacrosse games in 3 days (2 Saturday, 2 Sunday, 1 Monday) had an attendance of 123, 225 which is still the highest total Championship Weekend attendance. The Championship Weekend slowly declined to a new low in 2011 where the weekend festivities only drew 98,786 people, but for a new trendy sport nobody would scoff at those attendance figures. This past years Championship Weekend held at the home of the New England Patriots really fell flat drawing only 79,595 people for the weekend, the lowest since 2002 also the lowest ever since the Championship Weekend started being held in NFL stadiums. This year’s championship pitted a newcomer in the Loyola Greyhounds against a perennial power in the Maryland Terrapins. The Loyola Greyhounds beat the Maryland Terrapins 9-3 and Loyola captured its first ever Lacrosse National Championship. Both Baltimore and Foxboro are lacrosse hotbeds Baltimore however is seen as more of a breeding ground where lacrosse seems to grow each year where Foxboro is in an area that sustains, but does not grow in lacrosse participation numbers.
The creation of a contract that would keep Championship Weekend in Baltimore would be highly beneficial for the sport of lacrosse. The creation of a constant site for the championships in Baltimore would create a quasi-pilgrimage feel for fans as every year they know they will be descending on Baltimore for the culmination of the season. Baltimore is well equipped to handle the amounts of people that will be attending the event because of the proximity to hotels, and they also have night-life and proper infrastructure to handle the traffic that comes with 45,000 people crowds. Foxboro does not offer the amenities that Baltimore offers Foxboro cannot offer close proximity to hotels or night-life because Boston is a 30-40 minute car ride from Foxboro also Gillette Stadium in Foxboro is located on small town roads that create traffic hassles after and before the games.
Another benefit to creating the site to be at M&T Bank Stadium is the proximity to local teams and the casual fan can come watch their favorite team play. For instance this year when 3 of the Final Four teams where within 1 hour of Baltimore, but the casual fans would have had to make the 6 hour drive to Foxboro to catch the game. While growing the popularity of the game is paramount to US Lacrosse and excluding the Northern States seems unfair the creation of rivalries such as Virginia vs. Maryland do not have the same feel in Foxboro as they do in Baltimore. Also for a game that is trying to grow cutting down on expenses would be another additional bonus because Foxboro is not in close distance to any perennial power house teams because the only schools close are Syracuse and Cornell which are actually about the same in driving distance to either location and Cornell is actually closer to Baltimore.
The creation of Baltimore into the “New” Omaha would be beneficial to the game of lacrosse because it would be right in the center of the biggest hotbed for lacrosse in America. The fans and students of their respective universities would come out in full force to cheer on their team at Championship Weekend every Memorial Day Weekend and give lacrosse the college sport atmosphere it so desperately desires.