Celebration Bowl may have priced itself out of higher attendance

The Celebration Bowl’s move to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium caused a price jump that coincided with a record-low crowd.

Celebration Bowl III is in the books, and for the third year in a row, fans got a compelling game as North Carolina A&T beat Grambling for a 21-14 win. The most scrutinized facet of the game the first 24 hours after its completion hasn’t been an offensive play call or an officials whistle, but the number of fans that watched the game live in Atlanta on Saturday.

Even North Carolina A&T coach Rod Broadway, flanked by cameras and microphones in the middle of an interview, paused when the final attendance tally was read.

“Two. Five. Eight. Seven. Three.”

25,873 fans made their way into the first bowl game in Merecedes-Benz Stadium history on Saturday to watch the MEAC and SWAC champs play in the dome that the Atlanta Falcons call home. That total marked the second straight year that attendance declined in the three-year history of the bowl game.

The inaugural Celebration Bowl between Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T in the Georgia Dome saw better than 35k fans, while the second game had just over 31k show up to watch North Carolina Central and Grambling State.

Celebration Bowl
Mercedes-Benz (Stadium) Don’t Come Cheap

The big difference, of course, between the first two games and Saturday’s was the venue. The game was played in a shiny new stadium that resembles an extraterrestrial complex, but also came with a steep price increase that may have been too steep. The cheapest Ticketmaster ticket in 2017 ($50) was just $10 more than the most expensive one in 2016.

We created a graphic to illustrate the price difference between 2016 and 2017.
Celebration Bowl increase

Of course, there are many factors other than just the price itself that likely contributed to the fall. Most of them were economical. The game is basically a week before Christmas, and with fans with limited disposable income, it just makes more economic sense to turn on the television and watch it.

Then again, for a game put on by a television network, that isn’t a bad thing. In 2016, Celebration Bowl executive John T. Grant told the media getting a full house wasn’t the game’s primary objective. He stood firm in that stance on the HBCU Gameday Podcast last week as well, emphasizing the television aspect of the game is what separates it from the format of “classics” that HBCU fans are more familiar with.

“Certainly TV ratings matter in a TV business. That’s the difference between when you go to the level of a bowl game vs. just playing a classic game, because we were in 15.7 million homes last year.”
While TV is no doubt, the driving force of the game, having a significant decline in each year of the game is not what anyone wants. Time will tell if this a glitch in the matrix or a long-term issue.



  1. Blue

    December 17, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    That’s real base on what? Because every accounts that’s on RECORD says 16,701. From Espn to both conferences.

    I think they may be confusing tickets purchase with actual tickets that came through the gates.


    December 17, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Steep price hike my a–. Ni–as are just cheap. $80 ain’t no damn money for a bowl game. I promise if the SEC Championship seats cost $80 to sit on the 50 yard line, nobody would complain. January 8th, if the GA. Bulldogs play in the Nat’l Championship and the seats are $80, I can promise you not one black person would complain.

    Truth is “WE” don’t value HBCU athletics simply because the best athletes who are black attends the PWI’s. So why spend any real money only to watch the damn marching band? Do a survey. Ask at least 50 blacks who ARE NOT affiliated with an HBCU, to name ONE head coach from the MEAC or the SWAC, off the top of their head. Watch how loud you hear the crickets.

    We do what the hell we want to do with our money. Christmas time my a–.

  3. Jake

    December 18, 2017 at 12:16 am

    I am in total agreement Steven. I would like to add that the game’s organizers need to bring in marketing professionals to address the missing demographic. A 45-60 year old, no matter what the mindset, is never going to be in tune with that of a 18-25 year old. ESPN also should reach out to the media companies that cover HBCU games every week whether the cameras are rolling or not. Having Cox Media (owners of WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal Constitution) as members of the executive committee means little because the demographic interested in games like the Celebration Bowl is a collateral audience for them. Collateral in the sense that if they get it great, if not oh well. Not one of the Cox Media outlets gives anything more than perfunctory coverage of HBCU Sports. It never has and never will. I have been on the sidelines in Atlanta for 17 years and I can count how many times one of Cox Media’s outlets have covered Morehouse, Clark Atlanta, or Morris Brown before it ran into financial difficulty. Actually, the news station covered the financial struggles of the historic HBCU more than they ever covered the sports teams.

  4. Pingback: Alcorn State and A&T to face off in Celebration Bowl IV, but things have changed | The HBCU App News

  5. Pingback: Celebration Bowl IV attendance up, viewership took a slight dip - HBCU Gameday

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