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.