Despite adding on the North End Zone grandstand, suite and loge areas in 2018 Cardinal Stadium’s attendance for Louisville Football home games was an average of 50,250.7 per game. There was the unfortunate luck of the deluge of the 1st home game of the season vs. Indiana State essentially washing out any chance of a good opening crowd in the new expanded stadium. But as the season wore on the attendance from Cards fans continued to slip as did the play on the field.
Cardinal Stadium fell short of a capacity crowd by an average of 10,750 in 2018 as could be expected in a 2-10 season. The expansion however, can explain the ‘bump’ in attendance numbers overall as UofL averaged just 46,159.5 fans in 2017 (with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson playing his final season at UofL). The Cards fell just 8,840.5 fans short per game in 2017 so while the overall attendance number did actually expand in 2018 thanks to expansion so did too the % of available capacity.
The Western Kentucky Football match-up was the highest attended game in 2018 at 54,923 and is the 15th highest attended game in school history (again expansion will shift some facts as we move forward). But Louisville also played its first game of the season at a neutral site as is the trend in college football and the Cards lost to Alabama.
Attendance Slipping Nationally
Attendance around college football dipped sharply beginning with the 2017 season. A sport built around television might have finally found its in-person saturation point. FBS attendance remained at 37,000,000+ for a period of 10 years from 2007-2016 but then fell back to levels not seen since the 2006 season. Many programs expanded their stadiums during this era to accommodate for the growing crowds, but now many schools are looking at retractions of capacity and focusing on more premium areas (Alabama, Kentucky, etc.).
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