ACC tourneys will relocate

Scheduling, attendance issues at M&T Bank prompt Ravens to drop men's, women's events

College lacrosse

June 30, 2006|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

After a two-year run at M&T Bank Stadium, the Atlantic Coast Conference men's and women's lacrosse tournaments will be heading back to a campus site to be designated later.

The Ravens, the first professional sports franchise to usher in the stadium era for the NCAA men's lacrosse championships, decided to part ways with the smaller-scale ACC event.

Next spring, the sport's Division I Memorial Day weekend semifinals and title game will return to M&T Bank Stadium after a two-year move to Philadelphia.

Dennis Mannion, the Ravens' senior vice president of business ventures, said the organization passed on the ACC tournaments for several reasons, most notably the scheduling conflict it would create.

The NCAA championship weekend could draw 50,000 fans to the Division I semifinals and title game on May 26 and 28, and Mannion did not want to divert preparation energy to the ACC games a month earlier.

"It really comes down to market confusion of what event you're having," Mannion said. "Our feeling is to put two different lacrosse tournaments in an overlap situation, you're asking for confusion."

In addition, this year's ACC tournament, played from April 27 to 30, conflicted with the NFL draft, when the Ravens traditionally host their annual Spring Football Festival. The festival was rescheduled from April 29 to May 22.

Attendance at the ACC tournament did not help. This year, 19,473 ACC tournament tickets were sold, an increase of more than 5,000 since 2005. But much of that difference was due to the Division III game between Salisbury University and Washington College that was played on April 29, when no ACC games were scheduled.

The absence of Duke's men's team also made a noticeable dent in the actual attendance. The Blue Devils canceled the majority of their season in the wake of rape accusations from an exotic dancer hired for a team party, leaving only three teams in the tournament. Top-ranked and eventual national champion Virginia was given a bye in the semifinals, and the tournament was reduced to a two-game affair over three days.

"Not having two semifinal games didn't help. Anytime you don't have the opportunity to showcase your teams, whether they are ranked No. 1 or 2 or whatever, it's going to hurt," said Davis Whitfield, the ACC assistant commissioner of championships. "It was a great experience. We'll go back to campus sites for the immediate future, and I hope we'll back [in Baltimore] at some point."

"The attendance was mediocre at best, but our plan was to continue to market [the ACC tournaments] aggressively," Mannion said. "We were very tentative about letting this go. We definitely would revisit it."

Ravens ticket spokesman Adam Mazalewski said 12,569 all-session tickets have been sold for next year's semifinals and title game, and club level seating is nearly sold out. That does not include several thousand tickets made available to the four Division I schools and the two schools each from Division III and II that will participate in the championship weekend.

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

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