It’s Time to Expand Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium

Photo Credit: University of Denver

In 2005, when the University of Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium was built, it was hard to envision what would transpire over the course of the next decade. At the time, DU was still a fledgling 6 year old Division I lacrosse program. It hadn’t even made its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament yet.

When the stadium was built, Denver’s hockey team was the “big thing” on campus. George Gwozdecky’s powerhouse program was in the process of winning two straight national championships and extending the Denver brand across the country.

Thanks to the dominance of the crimson and gold hockey team, lacrosse was little more than an after-thought at DU so it’s hard to blame DU for building a small, though historic (it was the first lacrosse-only stadium in the country) stadium for DU’s lacrosse teams.

Since Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium opened, DU hired the greatest lacrosse coach in the sport’s history (Bill Tierney), has become a mainstay in the top 5 of all national rankings, and has made 8 NCAA Tournament and 4 Final Four appearances. Oh and they were the first program from west of the Mississippi River to win a National Championship.

This program attracted 13,076 to Sports Authority Field at Mile High for their quarterfinal game against Ohio State last year. It was the 6th best-attended quarterfinal game in college lacrosse history.

Contrast that with the five highest attended games in Peter Barton history:

3/28/2015 vs. Geogetown: 3,117
5/10/2014 vs. North Carolina: 2,748
3/7/2015 vs. Notre Dame: 2,728
4/3/2015 vs. Villanova: 2,715
4/12/2014 vs. St. John’s 2,702

The obvious argument here is that 13,000+ came out for an NCAA Tournament game and these others just aren’t as important or exciting.

That argument does have some merit. There is a significant contingent of all sports fans that only show up for playoff matchups so there is definitely a predictable attendance drop-off between the NCAA Tournament game and regular season game. But that does not and cannot account for the huge discrepancy in attendance levels.

The simple reality is this: Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium’s current capacity cannot meet demand.

Denver sports fans will ALWAYS show up when teams are winning. From the Rockies to the Avalanche to the CU Buffaloes up north in Boulder, fans will reward teams for winning (unless you play your home hockey games at Magness Arena, it seems). The DU lacrosse program is starting to experience this phenomenon.

It’s become so serious that fans are being turned away from the ticket windows because games are sold out. That can’t happen for a rapidly growing, successful program. An already financially strapped athletics program is missing out on revenue while disenfranchising some newer fans who can’t get in.

That’s not a formula for success in this city. DU lacrosse has the potential to become a major player in this sports market. Because most of DU’s games this season are televised, interest in the program is growing. Fans want to be a part of this program’s success and they want to show up.

The fact that many of these fans try to show up and can’t is a problem. But it’s a problem that can be solved. The stadium needs to be expanded.

Of course, everyone has been saying this for a few years now. Even Bill Tierney knows this is a potential reality. The question is no longer if the stadium needs to be expanded.

The question is how can it feasibly happen?

While this is something only DU can answer, LetsGoDU has an idea as to how it can happen and where more seats can be built.

First, here is a picture of the current stadium’s infrastructure:

The Cable Center is north of the field, the grass hill and Ritchie Center to the east, and the current seating area to the south.
The Cable Center is north of the field, the grass hill and Ritchie Center to the east, and the current seating area to the south.

A physically feasible expansion, as far as LetsGoDU is concerned is as follows:

Add a section of stands between the field and Ritchie Center. Make a tunnel (similar to the current tunnel underneath the current stands) to maintain the current path and allow foot-traffic to continue undisturbed.

There should also be more stands on the north side of the stadium, between the Cable Center and the field. This section could single-handedly double the stadium’s capacity. One of the issues with building this new section would be the sightlines from the Cable Center’s balcony.

The balcony from the Cable Center has a great view of the whole field and it’s unlikely that the building would be willing to let this view go away. DU could address this by building the new stands around the balcony to avoid blocking the views. This is physically possible and absolutely feasible.

There is another walkway between the field and the Cable Center. Again, DU should make a tunnel underneath the stands to maintain the current path.

This is just a rough and quick potential idea for expansion. There are many other factors that go into these decisions, but the point is, expansion is possible and physically feasible.

The fact that the stadium’s record attendance is almost a full 10,000 less than the best-attended game in DU lacrosse history is a problem that needs to be fixed. The only way to fix it is to expand Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

Yes, this (hopefully inevitable) project needs to be funded and the athletics program doesn’t exactly have the funds to finance this expansion itself. As is the case with most projects like this, alumni donations will be needed to make this a reality.

This expansion needs to happen and it’s going to take a collaboration of alumni and administration. Let’s make this happen, Pios. It has become a foregone conclusion that Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium is too small. Capacity needs to increase. It’s physically possible. Now we need to make it financially possible.

We will continue to wholeheartedly support this effort and update readers on the process as it gains momentum.

20 thoughts on “It’s Time to Expand Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium”

  1. To expand Barton to DU’s architectural standards is probably somewhere north of $2 million on the low end (some seats on the hill) to $10 million or more (adding a second deck onto Barton or a second grandstand on the North Side. Remember, unlike hockey and hoops where there are 20+ home games per year per sport, there are only 5-7 home men’s games for men’s lax per year, so they will never make back the money in ticket revenue. And I can’t see DU putting up cheap and cheerful bleachers, either. And if you are spending $10 million or more, you could probably build a larger stadium (say 8,000 seats) that could host both lax and soccer, which is a sport that may also grow bigger as a spectator sport, now that DU is a NCAA tournament calibre program. That kind of stadium could host at least 40-50 dates per year, high school events, concerts, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a big fan of lax in general and the recent ( last 4 years) success.
    That said, this probably won’t happen. Puck Swami has some good points and likely reasonable ball park figures. Bigger problem, just too many other things at DU are (and should be) a higher priority.

    One thing about DU fans and Denver sports fans in general, they are proven fair weather fans (with exception of Broncos). So what happens in a few years when we aren’t in contention for national titles. Hell, students and community barely show up for hockey games and we are almost always in contention in that sport.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If DU could build a new stadium seating 8-12,000 for lacrosse and soccer it could also open the door for bringing back football in the future at the DIAA level in a conference like the Big Sky or Missouri Valley or the non-scholorship Pioneer League. The argument about the cost of a football program would diminish if DU had an on campus multi use mid sized stadium. I am not saying bring back football today, but if a mult use stadium existed it would be an opportunity worth exploring.

    Like

  4. How many people were turned away from last weekend’s DU lax games? Anyone know? 100? 200? Current Barton capacity seems to be a little more than 2700. What’s the magic number that people want to see Barton seat? If 200 people were turned away, then do people want a stadium that seats 3,000? Just because you build a bigger stadium doesn’t mean you’ll fill it. I’m asking because I don’t know. I think the intimacy of Barton is great and good for the DU team, a real home field advantage.

    Like

  5. On the one hand, yeah, more seats would be great. On the other hand, more seats necessarily increases ticket prices. There’s no way they’d drop millions and not raise ticket prices to recoup the money. Higher ticket prices end up becoming a disincentive to go – one of the reasons I buy season tickets is because it’s $150/pair. That’s dirt cheap. At $300/pair (or something) it becomes harder to swallow – though still not bad – given that DU routinely gives up 1-2 home games a year against marquee opponents to neutral sites (I’m looking at you, Duke and Penn State). Plus DU has gone to UNC twice, but UNC hasn’t come to Denver. Adding an exhibition game against Johns Hopkins to the package doesn’t cut it – even if that exhibition was basically a sellout (from my eyes).

    I’d think they could rent some cheap bleachers for a while and see what that does to attendance and demand. It would help for some longer term planning about what an expansion could do, without sinking millions into a total revamp. Plus, I just worry what happens after Tierney goes and the next coach comes in. How different is Barton from Magness? Will everyone get over the Lax phenomenon and stop going to games? What does the cash-strapped athletic department do then?

    I’m not against the idea, I’d love to see it happen. I just have a lot of questions about it. I’m glad I’m not in charge of the decision making!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First you make some good points. From DU’s perspective, I doubt they double season ticket prices, though they will be raising them as long as people keep paying, regardless. Also, Tierney isn’t leaving anytime soon. He’s here for another 5-7 years minimum I’d bet. His replacement is already here as well in Matt Brown. DU locked him up when the extended Tierney last year. There will be little to no dropoff once Tierney does leave.

      As I mentioned in the article, Tierney has already alluded to the stadium expansion. It’s not like this is coming out of left field. This is a real possibility that DU lacrosse is looking at. There are a million different ways they could do this. My point is that it’s physically possible to expand the stadium. How they make it happen from a financial standpoint is the bigger and more important question.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. DU charges $15 per individual ticket for home games. By contrast, DU plays at UNC on Saturday and UNC charges $5. Next is at Notre Dame, which also charges $5/ticket. JasonJ brings up good points. How much more could DU raise lax tickets too?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keep in mind that lacrosse is a marquee sport at Denver. At Notre Dame, they have the best football program in NCAA history and UNC has one of the best basketball programs in NCAA history. Denver has hockey and lacrosse. It’s not like the lacrosse team has to compete with many other sports for attendance. That’s why I don’t compare DU to other schools like that. It’s comparing apples to oranges. They’re both fruit but that’s where the comparisons stop. They’re all good schools with some good sports, but the athletic departments are completely different.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not a big fan of the idea of putting concrete seats where the hill is. It’s some valuable “green space” on campus and I don’t think you want to cram seats in that area that weren’t originally intended to go there. Could have a bad effect on the look of the Ritchie Center. Makes a ton of sense to me, to add seating on the North side by the Cable center. I don’t get the point about obstructing the balcony view at the Cable Center. I have only seen people watching a lacrosse game from that balcony a couple of times, and it seems kind of crazy that someone objecting on that basis would stop DU from building in that area. I’m pretty sure DU didn’t guarantee the cable center lacrosse sight lines when they built the cable center.. I think key point is what is said above–any additions would have to match the quality of the surrounding facilities, and this would not be cheap. Perhaps they could add seating for like 500 on that side, make it look nice, with room to build more over the years. But I am not George Costanza, and I am not an architect.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’d like to see the 2,000-3,000 bleacher seats installed before next season begins. If we sell the seats, the extra ticket money will cover the costs. If we don’t, not much lost. Why by next year? We will have more home games and some great teams are due to give us a visit. Bank on it. Also, next year’s team may be one of the great college lax teams of the modern era. We have 5 pre-season all-Americans on this year’s team, one being the all important FOGO.. ALL RETURN NEXT YEAR. We have more quality depth then ever and the younger kids will improve significantly in the next year. Some of them will become all-American’s.

    Like

  9. JasonJ: Next year, look for some of those marquee teams you mentioned that have been avoiding a trip to Denver for years, to finally show up for games here. It took Tierney eight years of trying, but it’s finally happening. North Carolina and Duke will be coming to Denver, and Notre Dame will also here next year (Kudos to ND — they have never avoided Denver and the alternate with us home and away every year). DU will probably consider playing some of those marquee games off campus, since seating demand will be in the 10,000-12,000 range for any of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Just found you guys again…wow. Good times.

    So, yeah. Expanding the lacrosse stadium. Great idea. However, before you even start having the $$$ discussion, there are some fairly substantial issues that would need to be addressed from a practicality standpoint…

    1) The retention pond to the north of the field (the “other” side…) is required by City and County of Denver Stormwater Management – it cannot simply be “filled in and built on” without jumping through some pretty major hoops regarding how stormwater and snowmelt are managed on and around campus.

    2) DU does not own the land on which the Cable Center sits – meaning that any proposed reconfiguration of that side of the field would be….problematic. At best.

    3) Given the proximity of The Towers (Centennial Hall…or whatever it’s called…) to the field, city fire codes prevent construction of stands (even temporary ones…) on the west side of the field.

    The only realistic location for permanent expansion of seating capacity at Barton is on the east side – adjacent to the Ritchie Center. But the sightlines suck over there and you’d only get maybe 100 – 150 seats. Which, who knows, may be enough…..

    But presuming an unlimited budget (which we all know isn’t realistic, but I digress…), I believe that DU’s best option may be to keep Barton as is, but build another grandstand on the west side of the existing soccer field. Then, convert that field to FieldTurf and use the resulting stadium as the venue for marquee events for both soccer and lacrosse. Lax would continue to have fall-ball in Barton and soccer would use Barton for spring-ball. Any further conflicts among the 4 sports (men’s and women’s lax & soccer) could be managed by, again, maintaining Barton as is, and hosting the “less popular” event in the smaller stadium.

    There are, of course, many issues with this proposal – not the least of which is the fact that all of the teams still need ample practice space. That means that the practice field that sits west of the current soccer field will absolutely have to be retained in as close an approximation of its current size as is possible…and even then, I don’t know if it’d be big enough once a grandstand was clunked onto roughly a quarter of it.

    But, honestly, given the layout of that part of campus and some of the other issues in play here, if DU really wants to expand lax seating capacity, I see the above as a proposal that could at least have a reasonable chance of making everyone involved happy….

    Like

  11. The Wendt turf fields are used by club sports, intramurals, and are rented out. You can’t build fields and tell everyone they’re for club sports and intramurals and then take them back. Non-D1 students at DU have a right to play also. I mean, they’re paying $50,000+ a year, and more next year thanks to the chancellor.

    Like

    1. “You can’t build fields and then take them back.”

      Sure you can. You just have to provide the other stakeholders with other viable options. What said options may be, I don’t know…but saying that DU “can’t” do what they want with their own facilities is patently false.

      Like

      1. Ring, then if DU took back the fields from club sports and IMs then they’d have to face the backlash from all of those students participating, which is more than outdoor D1 sports teams at DU, and maybe even parents.

        You’re also making the suggestion about expansion without a viable option for the Wendt fields so your mere suggestion isn’t realistic. It’s basic cause and effect.

        Like

    1. Strangely, there actually isn’t a hard and fast rule regarding the size of a ‘regulation’ NCAA soccer field. All the guidelines say is, “(n)ew facilities shall be a minimum of 70 yards [64.01m] in width by 115 yards [105.15m] in length”.

      The lacrosse field is 110×60 and, with the existing extra room on the sides and ends, there should be enough wiggle room to wedge a minimum dimension soccer field in there.

      Like

  12. An elevated standing-only terrace (possibly 2 tiers) on the north side could add a significant number of general admission seats with minimized cost and set the stage for transition to a full grandstand.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s