ALBANY — The city’s pro hockey team had a league-worst attendance before it left town for good. Its state university’s men’s basketball team struggles to draw.
But UAlbany men’s lacrosse? That’s suddenly a hot ticket.
Days out from hosting its first NCAA tournament game since 2007, UAlbany’s nearly sold out its Tom & Mary Casey Stadium for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. visit from reigning national champion North Carolina. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday night, the school had sold 5,676 tickets for a game expected to break both national and school attendance marks.
“There’s gonna be tons of purple and gold in the stands,” UAlbany senior midfielder Adam Osika said. “We’re gonna feed off that energy and carry it onto the field. It’s gonna be great.”
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Nationally, the current attendance record for a men’s lacrosse tournament first-round game is 5,479, set when Army played at Syracuse in 2010. Meanwhile, UAlbany’s ticket sales for Saturday’s game have already exceeded the highest-ever attendance number for a men’s lacrosse game in school history, which was 4,823 for a 2015 game against Yale.
Official seating capacity for lacrosse at Casey Stadium is 6,394, but some standing-room tickets will be sold.
The UAlbany men’s lacrosse team had an average attendance during the 2017 season of 1,689. In April, it drew a season-high 3,093 fans for a midweek game against Maryland — the top seed in this year’s NCAA tournament — that started at 4 p.m., but it also drew as few as 518 fans to one early-season game.
The Devils’ AHL-worst attendance this past season checked in at a per-game average of 2,949 during the franchise’s final year in Albany. UAlbany’s men’s basketball averaged 2,549, but drew 1,693 for its home conference tournament game after head coach Will Brown had called upon fans to show up for the game and that “anything less than 3,500, I’ll be disappointed.” Then, to end UAlbany’s men’s basketball season, 641 watched the Great Danes lose to Saint Peter’s in the CIT.
Siena College men’s basketball had an average attendance of 5,925 this past winter, while RPI men’s hockey and Union College men’s hockey attracted averages of 3,087 and 2,101, respectively. From this past fall, UAlbany football — for which Casey Stadium has a seating capacity of 8,500 — averaged 5,954 supporters per game.
UAlbany, seeded eighth for the NCAA tournament, moved up to No. 4 in both national polls this week, the highest the Great Danes have been since the 2007 season. North Carolina — which features a Capital Region product in senior Luke Goldstock, a Niskayuna native — is ranked ninth in the media poll and No. 10 in the coaches poll.
UAlbany senior midfielder Bennett Drake said the Great Danes welcome the extra noise and support expected for Saturday’s game.
“You can’t argue with having your home crowd behind you,” Drake said.
Note: This story has been updated.