Florida State recently announced that it will add club seating options to Doak Campbell Stadium, reducing overall seating capacity by a few thousand. This comes as some schools across the country, like Texas A&M and LSU, have increased capacity.
Given that, some Florida State fans are wondering why FSU would reduce capacity. The answer is complicated, some of which has to do with college football as a whole, and some specific to Florida State.
Bemoan if it you will, but it has been well-documented that the lack of cell phone reception and wireless internet are detractors to going to games for many, especially in the younger generation. And with the increase in television quality, combined with the decrease in price, the home viewing experience has never been better. Athletic departments all across the country are trying to combat these issues by creating a unique stadium experience, offering more amenities, etc. Still, many agree that attendance issues plaguing college football nationwide will likely not be solved any time soon. Many who have looked at the shifting dynamic lauded the move to reduce capacity and offer more luxury seats.
The issue specific to Florida State is more interesting, however. And it's one of population.
Nestled up in the panhandle, Florida State is the only school with a stadium that holds at least 75,000 people to not have at least 1M in in-state population within a 100-mile radius. Less than rural schools like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Clemson, etc.
According to 2010 US Census Data and the CAPS system, 850,871 Floridians live within a 100-mile radius of Tallahassee. The school with the next least populous surrounding area? Nebraska, with 1,448,241 --70 percent more than the Seminoles.
Why a 100-mile radius? It's at most a two-hour drive. People living within 100 miles can quickly and easily make it to a game and home again on the same day. These fans do not have to stay in hotels nearly as often as fans coming from farther away. Having people who can consistently show up to support the team without a major outlay of time and money, like the one required for those making a drive of four or more hours, is important.
Compare FSU's close population surrounding Gainesville. The Gators have six times the number of Floridians living within 100 miles of campus as Florida State does. The gap does close when the radius is increased to 250 miles, but again, fans living within 250 miles are less likely to consistently make the trip compared to those within 100 miles.
The schools at the top all have either a huge city (Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, New Orleans, etc.) or several large-sized cities within 100 miles. FSU has neither.
Considering that, it makes Florida State's annual attendance of 92 percent capacity in 2013 all the more impressive.
Some will point out that considering only in-state population doesn't tell the whole story. That is true.
But for state schools, it is very important to note that in-state residents are more important. In-state tuition is much cheaper than out-of-state. And since alumni make up an important portion of fans, having a situation where a sizable population lives just over the border is not conducive to churning out alumni who will live close by when compared to schools with the advantage of having a large in-state draw.
In Florida State's case, there are certainly fans in nearby Georgia and Alabama, but FSU fans do not exist with the same frequency in those areas as they do in the state of Florida. And FSU runs in to the additional issue of alumni going back to the major population centers like Tampa, St. Pete, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, etc. -- places that are four to seven hours away on the road.
Here again, Florida State is last (though not by quite as much!) in terms of fans within 100 miles. It's a simple fact that FSU fans are asked to travel farther to see their Seminoles play than fans of any other school with stadium seating 75,000 or more.