Should the Lacrosse Final Four Stay in Baltimore?

| May 30, 2012 | 7 Comments

Originally Posted 5/30/2012:

Many have often argued over which region of the country plays the best lacrosse.  An argument consistently pitting Baltimore, Long Island and upstate New York against each other. To add to that, the talent level has also soared in areas like Philadelphia, Washington DC, New England and other areas in recent years.  You can spend hours arguing over which region plays the best lacrosse and produces the best players, but you can’t argue that Baltimore is at the epicenter of the lacrosse world.

Baltimore is home to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame run by US Lacrosse, the national governing body of the sport.  Both are about to get a nice new facility and recreational stadium at Harbor Point in Harbor East  (Update, they are now looking to move to Sparks). Baltimore is also home to the two biggest lacrosse publications in the industry, Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine.  Many will also tell you that Johns Hopkins is the most storied program in NCAA Lacrosse and Homewood Field is considered the Cathedral.

The Baltimore metro area also includes Division I programs Loyola, Towson and UMBC, with University of Maryland and Navy just 30 minutes down the road.  Division I programs Mt. St. Mary’s, Georgetown and Delaware are also within an hour of Charm City.  Many Division III programs are just as close and most would tell you that the Baltimore-based MIAA is the best and deepest high school lacrosse league in the country.  Just about every day during the open NCAA recruiting season you will find lacrosse tournaments filled with many of the best club teams in the country and the best college coaches there to see them play at parks and campuses in the Baltimore area.  The Under Armour All-American game is also held at Towson University and features the best high school players in the country.

The biggest event in lacrosse has become the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four Weekend, an event which features the Division I Semifinals and  Championship, as well as the Division II and Division III Championships.  In 2003, the NCAA moved the event to NFL stadiums starting at M&T Bank Stadium and immediately attendance records were shattered.  In 2007, the highest mark was set in Baltimore as 52,000 people watched the semifinals, 48,443 watched the championship and 22,778 watched the Division II and III Finals.  The event has been held in Philadelphia twice, Foxborough three times and Baltimore five times, but the attendance has gone down every year since the high mark of 2007.  This year’s event was in Foxborough and the total weekend attendance was down 43,630 from the 2007 high.

The event will return to Philadelphia for the third time next year – and back to Baltimore in 2014 – but questions have emerged about how the future of the event should be handled.  I recommend reading the comments of this Inside Lacrosse Article where readers discuss their recommendations for the future of the Lacrosse Final Four.  The most common topics discussed were the price of tickets for the event in this bad economy, which start around $100 per person for the three day event, as well as the teams in the final and the slowed down pace of the game of lacrosse.  The most common topic brought up is how bad of a venue Gillette Stadium in Foxborough is for this event because of its location – many think that Baltimore should be the permanent home.

Every year the Baseball College World Series is held in a single location, Omaha, Nebraska, so it begs the question- should Baltimore be the permanent home of the Lacrosse Final Four?  This Monday’s final featuring Loyola and Maryland was a good example of why Baltimore is a great permanent home for the event.  So many teams and fanbases are close to Baltimore and one would think a combination of Maryland, Hopkins, Towson, Loyola, Navy or Delaware could produce a National Championship crowd that could maybe fill M&T Bank Stadium and produce a historic lacrosse environment.  Syracuse is viewed as the largest fan base in college lacrosse and even the Orange are only a 4-5 hour drive from Baltimore, which is about as close as it gets for the central New York school.

Metlife Stadium in Meadowlands, New Jersey and Denver have been hot topics for a Final Four, but I’ve been told that Denver is just too far for the majority of lacrosse teams and fans and that Metlife does not give the accessibility to nearby restaurants and attractions that allows the lacrosse community to set up the promotions, events and parties that create the festival that is Final Four Weekend.

Baltimore offers an amazing environment for this type of event.  There are plenty of surrounding hotels rooms, plus it is steps from Downtown, the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill and more.  A new Harrah’s Casino should also be around by the time the Final Four returns in 2014, adding another thing a weekend tripper can do within walking distance of the event.  Philadelphia has done very well with attendance, but their stadium is much more isolated from the action of the city than M&T Bank Stadium.

We’ll see what happens in the next two years, but I think the NCAA should consider making Baltimore a permanent fixture for the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four.  As long as the ticket prices come down to realistic values, Baltimore will always put a great crowd at the event and, if the right teams fall into place, it may be a historical lacrosse moment that is talked about for a long time.

What do you think?  

Update 5/15:  From an article in the Baltimore Business Journal, Baltimore is putting together an effort to become the home of the Final Four from 2015-2018 with 2014 already being hosted at M&T Bank Stadium.

Update 5/26:  Baltimore County based Stevenson is won the Division III Championship.  Once again another Baltimore area based school that would provide a boost in attendance.

Update 5/28:  This years’ Final Four in Philadelphia once again featured a drop in attendance and Inside Lacrosse takes an in-depth look at the drop in attendance and future decisions.  The drop in attendance at Philadelphia certainly fairs well for Baltimore’s goal of becoming the permanent home of the event.

Update 5/28:  The Baltimore Sun makes their case for Baltimore becoming the permanent home.



About the Author:

Creator of and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
  • bmoreguy

    I agree that M&T Bank stadium is a perfect permanent venue for this event.  The bars and restaurants in Federal Hill are already used to handling large crowds thanks to the success of the Ravens and residents are already used to the foot traffic and inconvenience that comes with such an event.  I think the city would be very wise to make a grab for this.

  • teamtom

    Not to mention that perennial favorites SALISBURY UNIVERSITY just won their 10th NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.  I’m sure they would pull a larger crowd for the Division II/Division III championship games should the event be anchored in Baltimore.

  • R RS

    I respectfully disagree with making Baltimore the permanent venue for the lax Final Four. Omaha is ideal for the baseball college WS because it is situated in the middle of the USA where it is readily accessible by all collegiate teams. And while Baltimore is the middle of the Northeast corridor of the USA, please bear in mind that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the country. Teams and clubs are springing up in all 50 states. It is my fervent hope (and sincere belief) that lacrosse will eventually be flourishing in schools both at the scholastic and collegiate levels. But in order to accelerate this growth we must have tournaments and other special events in the Midwest, South, Rockies, and West Coast. At this moment, ESPN only broadcasts lax games from the Northeast. Major tournaments are also held in that region. But what about the rest of the country? Don’t we in the Midwest and other regions deserve tournament matches along with the publicity and revenues these generate as well? How can we accelerate the growth of our game if all the funding and all the fun is taking place in the Northeast??? I say, let’s have major tournaments (including the FF) in all regions. This will spur the growth of our sport here and distribute income resources everywhere. Eventually we can find a permanent home for the lax FF. But at this time, all the money is going to Baltimore and its surroundings. Let’s spread the wealth and make lax a truly national sport.

    • Mr. Bmore

      Quaterfinals locations should act as venues to grow the game, like this year in Indy. Plus, while lacrosse is growing nationally, probably 75% of colleges in D1 are with in a few hours drive from Baltimore.

      • R RS

        Thanx for your reply.

        I’m old enough to remember when the NIT was bigger than the NCAA (wow – that’s really OLD you say … that’s OK. I understand). The NCAA basketball tournament surpassed the NIT because it is truly a NATIONWIDE event rather than one that is almost exclusively centered in NYC.

        While the Northeast used to have a virtual monopoly on bball super power schools, the talent spread West over the years. Thus, the schools from NYC, Philly, & Boston no longer have this monopoly. Midwestern schools experienced great growth in these sports and the championship for the NCAA spread to cities outside of the Northeast. With those games came more revenue and far more public interest in the sport. Same with football and the Bowl games, My feeling is that this experience should serve to influence the lax powers that be to spread the tournaments to other parts of the country so that the sport can experience the same growth bball has enjoyed.

        Here in Minnesota lacrosse is the fastest growing sport. Kids are demanding more funding for programs so that they can play. Why deny these kids the same fun everyone else has always enjoyed in the Northeast?

        Spread the wealth, spread the fun just as in other sports. In the long run schools will make FAR more money, and many more kids will be able to play at rec, scholarstic, and colleigate levels.

  • Mr. Bmore

    I’m not sure if there can be a winner in the arguement of best hot bed city (though I would highly contest Baltimore being the clear front-runner, though respect the arguments of LI’ers and Upstaters). However, I don’t think there is any argument as to where the best venue for the tournament is, it is hands down Baltimore. The proximity to hotels, restaurants, the stadium, museams, family activity are all with a walk from each other. I would recommend dropping or keeping ticket prices steady for the next many years. This years event priced out many families.

    One correction to the article. US Lacrosse I believed pulled out of their Harbor Point relocation bid. I think they might be moving out to Monkton, but remaining in the Baltimore area.

    • Kevin Lynch

      Yes, the article was written after last year’s attendance so we’ll update that. US Lacrosse at HE would have been sick, stinks it fell through.