Creighton's second season of play at TD Ameritrade Park has been a mix of good and bad.
The Bluejays, who sometimes performed before next-of-kin crowds at their on-campus facility, are averaging 3,461 for their first 14 openings at the stadium. Creighton, which played twice at the CU Sports Complex in March, ranks 18th nationally among Division I teams with an overall average attendance of 3,075.
The bad news? The average for the games at TD Ameritrade is less than half of the 7,502 Creighton averaged in 16 games during the stadium's first season of operation in 2011. Only one crowd this season — the 9,684 that turned out for the April 24 game against Nebraska — ranks among the top 10 for the Bluejays.
“I know there are probably some people that are disappointed in our attendance, just as there will be some that will be disappointed in that we'll only have 12 or 13 for tomorrow night's game,'' said Creighton coach Ed Servais, referring to Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. meeting against the Huskers.
“But I look at things a little differently. We play in a lot of different parts of the country, and I see what other teams are drawing. I'm not one that is ever going to take what we're doing here for granted, and I'm still very excited about what the stadium is going to do for our program.''
The Bluejays have nine games remaining at home, beginning with Tuesday's game against Nebraska. Adrian Rider, Creighton's director of ticket sales, said about 11,000 tickets have been sold for the game. With favorable weather conditions, the attendance could be in the 12,000 to 13,000 range Servais hopes the game draws.
Last season's third game between the teams — which annually draws the largest crowd of the season for both schools — attracted 17,588. Nebraska and Creighton did draw 22,197 for the stadium's inaugural game last season, which was the second contest in their annual three-game series.
In the past decade, the third game of the NU-CU series has attracted some of college baseball's biggest single-game crowds of the season. The 2006 contest attracted 21,158 to Rosenblatt Stadium, while in 2005 — when both Creighton and Nebraska wound up playing in the NCAA tournament — the contest drew 20,011.
At this point, neither Creighton nor Nebraska appears headed for NCAA play. The Bluejays, after winning two of three games in a weekend series at Bradley, are 18-23. Nebraska, which lost two of three at Indiana over the weekend, is 29-18.
If the regular season ended today, the Huskers wouldn't be one of the six teams that qualify for the Big Ten tournament. Creighton would play in the Missouri Valley tournament only because that conference qualifies all eight of its teams. “I don't think there's any question that success on the field makes a difference in the number of people that show up to watch you,'' said Mike West, Creighton's assistant athletic director for marketing. “It's that way in any sport but especially college athletics.
“Our product on the field hasn't been as positive as we'd have liked, but we still feel that we have a chance to finish strong. We have a number of big promotions coming up that I wouldn't be surprised helps us finish the year in the top 10 in attendance.''
Creighton finished eighth nationally in 2011 with an average attendance of 4,479. That average includes 10 games played at the CU Sports Complex. None of the on-campus games drew more than 755.
Creighton signed a 10-year lease to play at TD Ameritrade. Neither university officials nor officials from the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority — which runs TD Ameritrade as well as the CenturyLink Center where the Bluejays play basketball — will disclose terms of the lease.
West did say the revenue produced by the sale of almost 1,800 season tickets makes it financially viable to play at TD Ameritrade. The price of a season ticket is $168 for adults and $99 for children. In addition, Creighton offers press-box seating for $960 for the season and $60 per game ($75 for the Nebraska contests).
West envisions the day when Creighton is able to sell 3,000 season tickets and average 6,000 per game.
“But that's a process and that's going to take time,'' he said. “We've talked about how the stadium is going to help our recruiting, but that's probably going to be a five-year cycle before we know how great an impact it can have.
“In a lot of ways, it's the same for our attendance. It's going to take time, but five years from now, our goal is to have every seat from dugout to dugout sold. It's going to take a lot of work, but that's our goal.''
Servais is taking a patient approach, too. The buzz created by the opening of the new stadium spiked Creighton's attendance last season. Drawing any conclusion from this season's drop, he said, probably would be premature.
“I don't think our sample size is large enough at this point,'' he said. “We had a lot of things come together last season. The stadium opened, we got a chance to hold the conference tournament in Omaha for the first time in a long, long time, and we had a club that played very good baseball.
“We still have a lot of things that we have to figure out as to how we operate in that facility. And I don't think there's any question that if we were playing better, more folks would be coming out.''
Servais is in the final month of his ninth season as Creighton's head coach and his 15th season with the Bluejays' program. He knows where the program was 15 years ago. That's why he's excited about where it could be 15 years from now.
“I'm excited to see what's taking place,'' he said. “We're in the top 20 nationally in attendance. We have some games coming up that could allow us to move up. How can you be disappointed in that?”
Creighton's 10 largest crowds at TD Ameritrade Park:
Att., Opponent, Date
22,197, Nebraska, April 19, 2011
17,588, Nebraska, May 10, 2011
10,814, Southern Illinois, April 22, 2011
9,684, Nebraska, April 24, 2012
8,737, Missouri State, May 20, 2011
8,171, Missouri State, May 19, 2011
7,855, Bradley, April 30, 2011
7,121, Southern Illinois, April 23, 2011
6,939, Wichita State, May 28, 2011
6,368, Missouri State, May 21, 2011
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The 10 largest crowds of the 2012 college baseball season:
Att., Teams, Site, Date
19,669, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Atlanta, April 24
11,710, Arkansas vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., April 28
11,676, Georgia vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., April 28
11,505, Alabama vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., April 14
11,376, Air Force vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., Feb. 17
11,204, Michigan vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., March 10
11,137, Mississippi State vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., March 17
11,115, Georgia vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., April 27
11,095, Arkansas vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., March 30
11,043, Louisiana-Lafayette vs. LSU, Baton Rouge, La., March 28
* * *
Top 10 regular-season crowds
40,106: San Diego State vs. Houston, PETCO Park, San Diego, March 11, 2004
28,836: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Turner Field, Atlanta, May 11, 2004
27,673: Tulane vs. LSU, Superdome, New Orleans, April 10, 2002
27,134: TCU vs. Houston, Texas vs. Rice, Tulane vs. Texas Tech, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Feb. 11, 2006
25,175: Long Beach State vs. San Diego State, PETCO Park, San Diego, March 13, 2004
24,665: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Turner Field, Atlanta, March 12, 2009
23,984: Vanderbilt vs. Arizona State, Texas A&M vs. Houston, Rice vs. Baylor, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Feb. 10, 2007
22,397: St. John's vs. Georgetown, Citi Field, New York, March 29, 2009
21,995: Baylor vs. Tennessee, Oklahoma State vs. Houston, Rice vs. Texas, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Feb. 12, 2005
21,724: Texas vs. Rice, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Feb. 14, 2004
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