Does stadium capacity relate to local community population?
Boise State recently announced plans to expand Bronco Stadium from 34,000 to 53,000 seating capacity. Along with a reaction of positive excitement there is also the question aptly asked by Idaho Statesman sports columnist Brian Murphy, “Can Bronco Nation afford to keep paying the tab for Boise State football?”
It is fair to ask what is appropriate and affordable for a community to support the local college football team. Feasibility studies, market analyses, and other deep thinking will determine what can be achieved, and the vision (illustration below) may require a long-term and multi phase effort.
Looking at the broad picture, is there any relationship between community population and the capacity of a college football stadium? One might expect that larger metropolitan areas are where one would find the larger stadium complexes. A comparison was made at three levels: 1) 106 metro areas and stadiums; 2) 74 metro areas under two million population; and 3) 59 metro areas under one million population. It is clear from the scatterplots there is no relationship between size of metro area correlating with stadium capacity.
For the Boise metro area it’s population of 606,000 hosts among one of the smaller stadiums, and a 53,000 capacity stadium would still be well within the range of other communities. It is the red dot on each scatterplot. Granted, population size is a poor measure of community wealth, but it’s worth making the comparison and then moving on to other factors.
Interestingly, many metro areas much smaller than Boise host very large stadiums. There are reasons for this such as length of established college football programs, wealth of a university, proximity to other metro areas that provide commuters that travel to the games. And some town are football towns and have been for much longer than Boise.