By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Bowling and boys lacrosse tournament events again drew record-breaking attendance totals during the 2018-19 school year as a total of 1,385,710 fans attended MHSAA postseason competitions for which attendance is recorded.
The MHSAA Bowling Tournament – including Regionals and Finals for girls and boys – set an attendance record for the eighth consecutive season last winter with 14,507 fans, including a record 10,124 for Regional competition. Boys lacrosse, which also begins postseason play at the Regional level, set a record for the third straight season this spring with 13,854 fans – with records also at the Regional level of 8,894 fans and Quarterfinal round with 1,911.
The MHSAA annually tracks attendance for all sports except golf, skiing and tennis – for which admission typically is not charged.
The 2018-19 grand total saw a decrease of just less than a half percent from 2017-18. While boys tournament event attendance was down 1.1 percent, or nearly 11,000 fans, girls tournament event attendance saw a 1.3-percent increase to 448,735, nearly 6,000 more fans than the year before.
A total of 17 sports saw increases in attendance for at least one round of tournament play. Three girls sports – basketball, competitive cheer and soccer – plus baseball saw increases in attendance for three rounds of the postseason. Girls volleyball, softball, boys basketball, football, ice hockey and both the team and individual wrestling tournaments saw attendance rise for at least two rounds of play compared to 2017-18.
Seven sports saw overall attendance increases from 2017-18. Girls Basketball, thanks in part to its best Regional attendance since 2001-02, was up 3.5 percent for the entire tournament with 164,166 fans. Cheer, with 27,697 fans for its postseason, was up 6.4 percent. Girls Soccer, with 27,689 fans, was up 1.5 percent for its entire playoffs.
Baseball saw overall postseason attendance increase 5.4 percent to 47,116 fans, and team wrestling was up 5.0 percent with 30,626 fans – including its highest total (15,089) for District competition since 2011-12. Girls and boys cross country – run together on the same days at the same sites – continued its recent surge with more than 19,000 total fans for the third straight season, its total of 19,799 last fall an increase of 1.1 percent from the previous year.
Despite a slight decrease in overall playoff attendance of 1.2 percent, football again drew the most fans of any MHSAA postseason with 348,585. That total was highlighted by a 12.7-percent increase at the Pre-District level for the 11-player tournament and a 22.8-percent jump for the Semifinal round, with 11 and 8-player games counted together. The Semifinals drew their most fans since 2014-15.
Boys basketball was the next most attended sport with 310,696 fans at postseason games, a decrease of just a quarter of a percent from 2017-18. The boys basketball attendance was highlighted by its best Regional turnout in four years and its best Quarterfinal attendance since 2012-13.
Basketball was the most attended girls sport for postseason play, with volleyball (105,128) also reaching six figures for the sixth straight year. Volleyball enjoyed its highest Regional and Quarterfinal attendance both since 2015-16.
To provide for the convenience and safety of spectators attending the Michigan High School Athletic Association 11-Player Football Finals on Nov. 25 and 26 at Ford Field in Detroit, attendees are being advised of a variety of items related to transportation and security – including policies regarding parking, seating and types of bags allowed into the stadium.
Parking will be available in Ford Field facilities and lots to the east and north of the stadium and costs $8. A map identifying the designated Ford Field lots (4, 5 and 6) and parking deck can be found on the Football page under “Tracking the Tournament.” (There also are a number of privately-operated parking facilities close to Ford Field, but their pricing may differ.)
Fans also are advised that the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Ford Field parking facilities and lots, and smoking – including use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers – is prohibited inside the stadium. Tailgating, including the setting up and use of grilling equipment, also is not allowed.
Tickets are priced at $20 and allow a fan to see all four games in a single day. Tickets are available for purchase at the door (cash or credit accepted), from participating schools, or online from Ford Field via Ticketmaster – links to order tickets both days also are on the MHSAA Website football page. Spectators leaving the stadium will be required to purchase another ticket for re-entry. Infants able to be held in arms will be admitted without charge for this event. There will not be a public Will Call window.
Spectators may enter Ford Field at Gates A & B. Upon arrival in the building, fans will find their designated seating areas on the South side of the field if their team is the designated home team for their contest and on the North side for the designated visiting team. Home teams this weekend are Belleville, Warren De La Salle Collegiate, Mason, Harper Woods, Corunna, Almont, Jackson Lumen Christi and Ottawa Lake Whiteford. Brightly-lit video boards above the seating areas will display the names of the participating teams each day, and fans should sit on the side of the stadium where they see their school’s name. For general fans, the entire lower bowl of Ford Field will be open for the event.
Security measures also will be in place to help assure spectator safety. Fans will be subject to metal detector screening, and Ford Field personnel reserve the right to request patrons open their coats, bags and other item-carrying vessels for visual inspection and deny entrance to individuals who do not cooperate. Spectators should remove cell phones, cameras, keys and other large metal objects before passing through the metal detectors.
Items which fans will be prohibited from bringing into the building include, but are not limited to, the following:
* Purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, book bags, diaper bags, fanny packs, cinch bags, grocery & paper bags; duffle bags, computer bags or luggage of any kind.
* Aerosol cans (hairspray, mace, pepper spray, etc.)
* Animals (except service animals to aid guests with disabilities)
* Balloons (air or helium)
* Balls (beach balls, footballs, etc.)
* Banners or large flags
* Cameras with lenses longer than five inches or any detachable lens. Selfie Sticks also are prohibited.
* Chairs including folding chairs or stools
* Decals, stickers, confetti or glitter
* Drones and/or remote-controlled aircraft
* Electronic equipment including laptop computers, video recorders (hand-held video cameras are allowed), tripods and wearable video cameras including Go Pros.
* Food, beverages – including water – or liquids (cans, bottles, boxes, flasks, etc.)
* Illegal substances
* Knives, pocketknives, box cutters, scissors, etc.
* Laser pointers
* Marijuana including medically prescribed electronic accessories or paraphernalia associated with marijuana or illegal narcotics use.
* Markers (permanent) and/or paint
* Noisemaking devices (bells, horns, kazoos, whistles, etc.)
* Objects that can be used as missiles or projectiles (sticks, poles, bats, clubs, Frisbees, etc.)
* Strollers and infant car seats or carriers
* Umbrellas (large size)
* Wrapped gifts
The following items may be permitted after inspection:
* Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, or a one-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc or similar). An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at the Gate.
* Infant items in a clear bag (bottles and formula) only if accompanied by a child
* Binoculars and binoculars cases not exceeding 4½ inches by 6½ inches may be brought in via one of the clear plastic bag options.
* Cameras (lenses may not measure longer than five inches or be detachable, and no tripods or extension cords)
* Small radios (no larger than the size of a football and used with an earpiece)
* Small, compact umbrellas (must be placed securely under seat)
* Posters and signs without poles or sticks, or larger than what one person can hold.
* Tablets (iPads, Kindles, etc.)
* Seat cushions not exceeding 15 inches by 15 inches. Seat cushions also must not contain arm rests, zippers, pockets, flaps or metal backs.
The complete list of prohibited items can be found on the Detroit Lions website. Prohibited items that are discovered during security inspections at stadium entrances must be returned to the owner's vehicle or discarded. Items will not be held for later pickup.
Fans are reminded that all image taking (still and video) may be only for personal, non-commercial use.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.