Louisville Football had it’s lowest (non-COVID) average attendance since the last year of the Steve Kragthorpe era during the 2021 season.
Cardinal Stadium was expanded to 60,500 for the 2018 season. Cardinal Stadium opened originally in 1998 as a 42,000 seat stadium. It was expanded for the 1st time before the 2010 season to 55,000.
In 2021 Louisville averaged 43,965 fans in Cardinal Stadium, compared to 49,912 in Scott Satterfield’s 1st season in 2019. The 2021 total is the lowest average attendance for UofL Football since the 1st expansion 2010. In 2009 during Steve Kragthorpe’s final season the Cards averaged 32,450 fans and is still the least attended season in Cardinal Stadium history. The highest average attendance was the 2016 season when Louisville averaged 54,065 fans in its then 55,000 seat stadium.
During 2021 no game the Cards hosted cracked the Top 15 in Stadium History.
Louisville’s highest attended season EVER was in 2013 when the Cards played 7 homes games and hosted 370,396 fans in the final season of the Teddy Bridgewater era (American Athletic Conference). The highest average attendance per game, however, was in 2016 (just 6 games) during Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy season with 54,065.2 (capacity was 55,000) filling up 98.3% of the seats that season.
When reviewing the remaining conversation around attendance without acknowledging the 2020 disruption of attendance. Attendance took a hit EVERYWHERE in 2020 around sports due to COVID-19. Whether it was local health departments, Governor’s, University Presidents, there was reduced capacity all over. So attendance breakdowns that include 2020 in the conversation are going to be a considerable outlier. In fact, the results were so far off that the NCAA did not even issue its typical annual report
Cardinal Football hosted 68,816 fans in 2020, in 6 games. The 11,469 (of 12,000 allowed) will forever be an outlier. UofL fans have to go back to the mid-1970s with the Cards in the Missouri Valley Conference to find similar attendance figures in the program’s history.
Despite that College Football overall has had slipping attendance starting with the 2017 season. Prior to 2017 College Football’s Overall attendance would fluctuate from 48.9M to 50.2M each season. However with more fans opting to stay home and watch on TV (and a lack of inclusion at the top of college football), attendance at College Football games hasn’t gone over 47.7M since. As a result stadiums have reduced capacities to create more premium areas at places like Alabama to meet the slipping demand from the every day fan and provide more premium options to fans willing to pay for them.
Cardinal Stadium Capacity History
2018 Expansion: 60,800
Cardinal Stadium currently can hold a maximum of 60,800 fans during a given game following a 2018 expansion of the North End Zone that added grandstands, suites (field level) and loge areas.
2010 Expansion Opening: 55,000 capacity
In 2010 Cardinal Stadium opened the expanded East side of the stadium with Upper Deck (the Flight Deck), 33 suites (the original plan had 70 suites) and the PNC Club, expanding the stadium’s capacity by 13,000.
2009: 40,000 reduced capacity
The 2009 season saw a temporarily reduced capacity for Louisville Football in the final year of Steve Kragthorpe’s tenure. They wouldn’t need the 2000 seats that were unable to be occupied during the expansion of the East Side of Cardinal Stadium.
1998 Original Construction: 42,000 capacity
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