Thursday, September 07, 2006

If you restore it, will they come?

As we approach opening kickoff Saturday, Sept. 16 against San Diego, I can't help but wonder what attendance will be like this season.

Yale, or shall I say its alumni, have put in a great deal of money to restore one of the crown jewels of athletic facilities. More than $30 million has been raised.

The Bowl, built in 1914, looks terrific. Phase I won't be complete until October, but the work is nearly complete and the results really are phenomenal. Seeing one or two portals restored gave a glimpse of what was to come; seeing newly formed walls and portals for as far as the eye can see stops you in your tracks. Once the grass is given a year to grow in above the walls, Wow, it's going to be impressive.

But will it help attendance?

Winning helps, no question.

But many people work on Saturdays now. When they're not working, they're bringing their kids to soccer, Pop Warner, dance recitals, fall baseball, fall lacrosse, etc., etc., etc.

If they want to watch college football, they can spend 12 hours in front of an HDTV seeing games from all over the country. Dozens of games. Is it the same as walking through the fields, smelling barbecue, listening to a college band, hearing the hits (not even surround sound gives you the feel of a jolting tackle on a kickoff.

People flocked to Jacobs Field and Oriole Park at Camden Yards and even to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. A stadium is part of the draw.

One alum recently told me the crowds of yesteryear are similar to the "big one that got away" ... the myth grows as time goes on. "We drew a lot more than they do now, but there were still a lot of seats left."

Over the past few years, sans Harvard, too many seats have been left vacant.

One only wonders if $30 million of restoration to one of the most historic stadiums in the country will be enough to draw people back.

We'll find out soon.

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