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:
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.