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Lax Attitude: Will Pro Lacrosse Sell in DC?

The Washington-Baltimore region and Long Island have traditionally been the heart of Lacrosse America, where the nation's oldest sport has thrived as a game for youth, high schools and colleges. Since pro lacrosse launched in 2001, teams have struggled to attract large crowds, and the Baltimore Bayhawks drifted from venue to venue, finally collapsing after the 2006 season.

In 2007, the team will transfer to Washington, a move that has not gone over well with Baltimore fans. The assumption in all of the news coverage of the team's move has been that the Bayhawks will play at a Georgetown University field, keeping attendance expectations quite modest. But the league has not had anything to say about those reports except that they are inaccurate.

Enter the District's next stadium project (and you thought the baseball stadium was more than the city could handle): At Poplar Point, directly across the Anacostia River from the new Nationals ballpark, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is set to announce today a plan for a 27,000-seat soccer stadium. The city is still working out financing plans, and the irony would be rich indeed if Fenty, the second-most rabid opponent of city funding of the baseball park (after David Catania), would turn out to be an advocate for city money going into a second stadium (don't look now, but we may soon have a third stadium discussion going--watch for Danny Boy Snyder to get itchy about the mess that is the former Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Prince George's County.)

So, how could the District possibly afford a soccer stadium? Even with the National Park Service ceding the land back to the city, somebody has to build the thing and provide enough activity to justify its existence. The DC United soccer team has not exactly been a huge draw at RFK Stadium, but the squad has enough of a following to do well at a small stadium such as that envisioned for Poplar Point. The team's new ownership group, to be announced officially today, is expected to make a major contribution toward the new stadium, but the team and the city will want additional tenants, and that's where lacrosse comes into the picture.

Although some lacrosse fans believe the two sports cannot happily share one facility--soccer fans accuse lacrosse of being way too harsh on a field--there are places around the country where pro teams in soccer and lacrosse coexist in one stadium (Chicago is an example).

A bigger question is whether pro lacrosse can make it in Washington. Baltimore partisans deride the lacrosse following here as a bunch of elitists who will remain true only to their own schools. But league officials, impressed by the enormous growth of youth lacrosse especially in northern Virginia, believe there is great upside potential here. And as any sports business expert can document, it's clear that Washingtonians are much more willing to shell out fairly big bucks for sports events than are folks in the Baltimore area.

That said, sports other than the big three professional leagues are struggling everywhere. Although minor league baseball is booming in Bowie, Frederick, and Prince William even after the arrival of the Nats, the American Basketball Association has had a rough time drumming up warm bodies for their games at Montgomery College in Rockville, the WNBA's Mystics are no longer the huge, league-leading draw they were in their first years (the Stix led the league in attendance in six of their first seven years of existence), and the Caps are faring poorly at the gate despite having the NHL's biggest new star.

More on the sagging attendance of local sports teams tomorrow. Meanwhile, what's your sense--can pro lacrosse succeed in Washington?

By Marc Fisher |  January 8, 2007; 8:15 AM ET
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Comments

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As a Baltimorean, I can assure you that pro lacrosse will not succeed in DC, however you may define success. The reason is that it is quintessentially a prep school sport that, at the college level, is often dominated by elite universities. Yes, Maryland fields a solid team every year, due entirely to its location. But Johns Hopkins, Cornell, Princeton,UVA and other upper level schools play at a consistently high--and even championship--level year after year. And that's because they draw top ranked lacrosse players from institutions such as Gilman and McDonogh, two top ranked prep schools in Baltimore. (Gilman has for decades been known as a "feeder school" for Princeton.)

Any sport whose roots are so blueblooded has little chance of being successful on the pro level. And consider this...a pro team could not make it in Baltimore, the city which is home to the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, which sits on University Parkway, adjacent to Johns Hopkins.

Posted by: Jack | January 8, 2007 8:57 AM

If the tickets aren't as overpriced as the Wizards and Capitals, I might give it a shot. That's always been one good thing about the Nats and United... you can afford a trip to the game.

Posted by: Greg | January 8, 2007 9:19 AM

You wrote: "The DC United soccer team has not exactly been a huge draw at RFK Stadium, but the squad has enough of a following to do well at a small stadium such as that envisioned for Poplar Point."

I have to take offense to this, even though it's not the main point of your article. United was the fourth highest in attendance this past year, behind the two Los Angeles teams (built in advantage of a large Latino community there) and Houston, which was in its first season in the city and which won the MLS Cup. DC has been known nationally as having some of, if not THE, best fans in the game, as well as one of the largest fan bases in MLS.

As for lacrosse in DC, I think it's a bit of a failing proposition. Lacrosse is, at its heart, a youth and college sport, as it should be. I'd much rather go watch a Hopkins, Maryland or even UVA game, where you have the collegiate atmosphere, than a pro game.

Posted by: Mike | January 8, 2007 9:20 AM

DC United has a strong fan base and there are a lot of people (like me) who go to a bunch of games (despite the fact that RFK is terrible) and will buy season tickets as soon as DCU has its own stadium.

Posted by: rp | January 8, 2007 9:22 AM

Oddly enough, DC was supposed to get a team when Major League Lacrosse was first created. But the organizers decided that Baltimore would be a better fit. So now we get our shot at supporting the team.

Jack brings up an interesting, albeit misinterpreted, point. One of the reasons that Baltimore historically has had such a difficult time supporting pro lacrosse teams is exactly because of the wealth of quality lacrosse that is played in the area (there are at least four consistently top-25 D1 teams). In the DC area, you can drive out to College Park or go to Georgetown games and that's it. So all those youth league players, who are really the demographic the league is targeting, could possibly flock to games.

The other problem with pro lacrosse is that the "tweaks" the MLL made to the game upset the purists, keeping many of them away. 12-year old boys tend not to be purists yet. They want high-scoring action, which is something the league definitely delivers.

The stadium issue is a whole other can of worms. But I think the area could support a team - it won't outdraw the Caps or United, probably, because it is still a "niche" sport, but it could do well enough.

Posted by: OD | January 8, 2007 9:22 AM

Mike,

why is lacrosse any more of a "youth and college sport" than soccer? why is that the way it "should be"?

isn't it just a historical accident that you got used to college lacrosse before professional lacrosse? do you think that the old boys at Harvard and Yale got upset when the NFL was created because football was, at its heart, a college game?

your argument doesn't make any sense to me. you can prefer the college game to the pro game, but that doesn't necessarily make lacrosse a college-only game.

Posted by: OD | January 8, 2007 9:31 AM

Kids are fascinated with Lacrosse, because it's an exciting sport. People who don't or can't play it would never understand. It's the fastest game on two feet and therein lies the problem - it would be hard to pull away for a TV timeout.

Posted by: Sitting Bull | January 8, 2007 9:31 AM

The only lacrosse at the professional level is the indoor variety. I saw a game between Chicago (Zeyphers?) and somebody and it was MLL. Who knew about an outdoor pro-league. The record of a "Box Lacrosse" team that played in DC at Capitol Centre (so long ago that was its name) does not bode well for this new venture.

Posted by: A Hardwick | January 8, 2007 9:32 AM

Mike,

why is lacrosse any more of a "youth and college sport" than soccer? why is that the way it "should be"?

isn't it just a historical accident that you got used to college lacrosse before professional lacrosse? do you think that the old boys at Harvard and Yale got upset when the NFL was created because football was, at its heart, a college game?

your argument doesn't make any sense to me. you can prefer the college game to the pro game, but that doesn't necessarily make lacrosse a college-only game.

Posted by: OD | January 8, 2007 9:33 AM

Hardwick,

You're confusing two leagues. There are in fact two professional lacrosse leagues -- National Lacrosse League (NLL) is the Indoor (or Box) league, and Major League Lacrosse is the Field league. To the untrained eye, it may not appear so, but they are two totally different games -- one of many reasons that the Washington Power's failure to succeed in DC should not affect anyone's prediction about whether the Bayhawks (which will presumably be renamed) can succeed here.

Baltimore couldn't support its indoor team, either, mostly because Baltimoreans support the field game, and only play box in the winter just to stay sharp. Box is mostly a Canadian game and closer to hockey than field lacrosse. Not surprisingly the Power franchise moved out to Denver and, with the cross-promotional support of the NHL team, the Avalanche, is supposedly doing quite well.

Posted by: Troy | January 8, 2007 9:39 AM

Jack, while most people agree with your sentiments (in particular "The reason is that it is quintessentially a prep school sport that, at the college level, is often dominated by elite universities"), the most successful (i.e. profitable)professional lacrosse teams are in decidedly blue-collar, not blue blood, towns: Philadelphia and Buffalo.

The Phila Wings have been extremely popular for years and the crowd they attract -- and go after -- is not what is often thought as the "lacrosse set."

This is not meant to be an indicator of any class or label, but demographically speaking, I'd wager there'd be a good crossover beetween ice hockey/Caps fans and lacrosse fans in this town. But are there enough?

Posted by: SJF | January 8, 2007 9:39 AM

I don't think Mark's trashing United here. I think he's almost saying our numbers justify the stadium. This stadium will cost literally 1/10th what the baseball stadium costs and the new owners are putting money into it, did we get that from baseball?

Posted by: Will | January 8, 2007 9:55 AM

No Metro access= no success. QED.

Posted by: Stick | January 8, 2007 10:11 AM

As a soccer fan, I believe that soccer and lacrosse fans should unite. I think we are foolish to put down the other's sport. Let's face it, the rest of the country views both our sports as small time ventures. So, we should support each other and find a way to leverage an investment in Poplar Point to benefit both sports. Both sports are great and offer interesting alternatives to the "big three".

Posted by: Todd | January 8, 2007 10:13 AM

While I think a professional lacrosse team could be successful in NoVa somewhere, I question whether all those NoVa parents will trek to Anacostia to see them play. I really doubt it.

Posted by: reispace | January 8, 2007 10:15 AM

I've been a lacrosse fan for over 25 years and regularly attend Maryland, Georgetown, Navy, and Hopkins games during the college season. With perennial top teams such as Princeton, Syracuse, and UVA making stops here against local colleges I've found the college game has the most talented players.

Lacrosse is an exciting sport to both play and watch however it's very difficult to properly show a game on television. It is best watched live. The action is too fast and the camera just can't keep up at times.

But would a DC pro team do well at the gate? I sincerely doubt it. DC is a Redskins town first, basketball town second, and everything else third. A professional lacrosse team would be far down on that list of thirds well below the Nats, Caps, and DC United.

Posted by: LAX Fan | January 8, 2007 10:20 AM

reispace, weren't suburbanites supposed to be scared of going downtown to the Abe Polin center, too? if you create a good experience and winning product at affordable prices, people will show up wherever it is. unless it's out in Rockville somewhere. I won't travel out there.

Posted by: AU | January 8, 2007 10:23 AM

DC United's attendance is one of the best in the league and better than you think!

People say all too often that no one shows up to United games because the stadium looks empty - that's because RFK is sized for the NFL, not the MLS. If the Wizards or the Caps played at RFK, the stadium would look empty too! But I don't see anyone complaining that no one goes to Wizards games.

United will fill its new stadium without a problem.

Look at the numbers:

DC United 2006 season avg/game: 18,215
Wizards 2006 season avg/game: 17,997
Caps 2006 season avg/game: 13,135

DC United 2005 season avg/game: 18,215
Wizards 2005 season avg/game: 17,122
Caps 2005 season avg/game: 13,905

DC United 2004 season avg/game: 17,232
Wizards 2004 season avg/game: 17,196
Caps 2004 season avg/game: 14,720

Posted by: bryandc | January 8, 2007 10:35 AM

"The DC United soccer team has not exactly been a huge draw at RFK Stadium"

Fisher's Nationals averaged 26,582 in 2006, with all the promotion given them and the stature of the "big three professional leagues".

DC United averaged 18,215 in the regular season (20,504 in the postseason), not too shabby given the lesser status constantly harped on by people like Fisher.

Or, why not point out that the reason Fenty is supporting the DC United stadium is because they are largely financing it, while his opposition to the baseball stadium was because it was a gift of up to $611 million of taxpayers' money to the already well-off baseball monopoly.

Posted by: Patrick | January 8, 2007 10:37 AM

First of all, every sport is better live than on television. And if you appreciate the sport better live, then what better way to create interest than by having a team right here in town?

Second of all, I think the MLL has established that it's not targeting those of us who have followed the game for decades. It's targeting the kids who wear their youth league jerseys and bring their sticks to the game (and their parents). Those are the ones who appreciate the opportunity to follow their heroes in the collegiate game into the pro leagues. The ones that don't care there's a 2-point goal or no long-stick midfielders. That's why the MLL has those fan-zone activities and makes players stay after the game to sign autographs.

I think they have as good a shot here as anywhere else. There are a ton of kids who play youth lacrosse now, especially in this area, and a bunch of indulgent parents willing to take them to watch a game for a few bucks. Seriously, how many 12-year olds have even been able to go to a Skins game? This city may be Redskins and basketball, but there's a huge area surrounding it that is lacrosse, and if the MLL can draw those people into whatever stadium the team plays in, they'll be just fine.

Posted by: Ffx | January 8, 2007 10:38 AM

Had a typo in the 2005 numbers - they should read:

DC United 2005 season avg/game: 16,664
Wizards 2005 season avg/game: 17,122
Caps 2005 season avg/game: 13,905

Posted by: bryandc | January 8, 2007 10:39 AM

bryan, wasn't there an NHL lockout one of those years?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 8, 2007 10:44 AM

there sure was. the nhl lockout canceled the 2005-2005 season.

so the nhl figures are like this:

2006 - the 2006-2007 season (current)
2005 - the 2005-2006 season
2004 - the 2003-2004 season

Posted by: bryandc | January 8, 2007 10:51 AM

there sure was. the nhl lockout canceled the 2004-2005 season.

so the nhl figures are like this:

2006 - the 2006-2007 season (current)
2005 - the 2005-2006 season
2004 - the 2003-2004 season

Posted by: bryandc | January 8, 2007 10:52 AM

All to often sports writers will attempt to justify sport business success with the NFL, NBA, etc. That is the most ridiculously stupid comparison to make. That is like asking someone to compare if a mom-pop store will be as successful as Walmart. Give me a break!

- Will professional lacrosse "succeed"? YES, IF THEY HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE RUNNING THE LEAGUE. IF NOT - IT WILL FAIL.

First you need logical cost numbers and adjust spending accordingly. ALL players should be semi-pro (like AVP volleyball or soccer in Scandanavia); coaches also should have full-time jobs outside of lacrosse, etc.

Second: determine who your target is: kids? adults? both? Or is the drinking post-college crowd? Who will u target?

Are there enough players/fans? YES. Will they come to watch the games? Maybe. Start off with FREE MATCHES. Give it time and invest in the infrastructure of the league and marketing .... over time ... that combination anything remotely attractive can be successfull!

- For the athletes: college sports is great, but most athletes peak at their respective sport in the mid/late 20's to early 30's. I don't know much about lacrosse, but I do know that as an athlete myself who played collegiate soccer it is a shame that not having an option to continue playing at a high level is a shame. Thus all athletes involved in a pro lacrosse venture should be willing to accept the sacrifice some to make the league work.

Posted by: Jeff | January 8, 2007 10:52 AM

"Although some lacrosse fans believe the two sports cannot happily share one facility--soccer fans accuse lacrosse of being way too harsh on a field--there are places around the country where pro teams in soccer and lacrosse coexist in one stadium (Chicago is an example)."

This is not quite true. The Chicago LAX team is moving to Toyota Park NEXT season.

Their first season was played in some Division III college track stadium.

Posted by: Prince The Prince | January 8, 2007 11:04 AM

With the hardcore lacrosse fans out there, there is an ongoing internal debate about whether the MLL will succeed and whether its business model is the best one.

But since this is an opportunity to broaden its base beyond those hardcore fans, I'll point out that its players are not "full time" professional athletes. Many of them supplement their MLL "salaries" (outside of the premier players, the money they make ain't exactly enough to survive in DC) by working for lacrosse equipment manufacturers or as coaches, but also a lot of them have full-time jobs as bankers, lawyers, etc.

Personally, I think the MLL expanded too soon, from a handful of teams in the Northeast, to teams in Chicago, Denver and California. But that's where the game is expanding at the youth, high school and college levels, too. So maybe this will all work out. But the quality of lacrosse players, even in the expanded league, is definitely the best of the best.

So I'm pretty excited about the prospect of having a team right here in town. Now let's hope they dump "Bayhawks" for something more appropriate for the location.

Posted by: Troy | January 8, 2007 11:11 AM

There is nothing wrong with a professional sport having semi-pro players. Most college athletes are also true students, etc. The comparison with MLB, NFL just isn't fair considering the exposure, branding, product tie-ins, hundreds of millions of players, etc. that traditional sports already have ... plus the PR guys who act as sports reporters who love to rip on non-traditional sports for pleasure. Sponsors & fans care about one thing: entertainment. Maybe having joint MLS & MLL games should be an option. I mean why not? Have lacrosse first then soccer or vice-versa.

Posted by: Jeff | January 8, 2007 11:50 AM

Haha, yet again Fisher tweaks the soccer nuts, who can't get over that this isn't Europe and whose "beautiful game" will never be as popular in this country as say billards or bull riding.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 8, 2007 12:10 PM

Soccer nuts? I love idiots. Especially ones that should just move to the country and out of the world's most important city. Go watch WWF, grab our $2 six-pack of beer, tell racist jokes ... you hick.

Washington DC is a global city and if you're not ... then just shut up and be respectful you moron. Tough arguing with poor uneducated close-minded down-trotten idiots. I'll gladly take my soccer and the beautiful foreign babes the game attracts over your billards and bull riding.


Posted by: Jeff | January 8, 2007 1:18 PM

I love the fact that Mr. MacFarlane, DC United's new owner, mentioned that DC United has a higher gameday attendance than the Wizards and Caps with Mr. Fisher in attendance. (Some reports have steam billowing from his head).

Posted by: Kim | January 8, 2007 1:37 PM

Will Lacrosse be successful in DC?

NO!

Posted by: Frankey | January 8, 2007 1:53 PM

Will Lacrosse be successful in DC?

NO!

Posted by: Frankey | January 8, 2007 1:55 PM

Pardon me, but lacrosse already is successful in the DC area. We have almost more kids willing to play lacrosse than we have spots for them on youth teams. I read last spring that the number of youngsters playing lacrosse nationwide has increased by 100% over the last ten years.
My bet is that the ticket prices will be quite reasonable, I already got an email offering season tickets at $99. Yes, the whole season. As far as field wear, if they make the field the new astro turf, which plays just like the real thing, there should be no wear issue. I can't take my son to college games during the season, because they're all on Saturday within one hour of his game, and there's no way to get to College Park or Charlottesville in that time.

I wish people would get over the idea that you are somehow not allowed to enjoy lacrosse unless you're from Baltimore or Long Island. Men in pads, carrying sticks, hit each other with the sticks, when they are not throwing a ball up to 90 miles an hour. What's not to like?

Posted by: fc mustangs mom | January 8, 2007 3:03 PM

Im a soccer "nut" but all of you jokers using united as basis for attendence better then wiz and caps, you need to realize, there are 41 home games for each. They are played on weeknights and weekends. DC united has what? 18 regular season home games? %85 are on the weekend... Big difference. I know if you inlcude cups, tournies and friendlies, it might be larger, but those numbers are not reflected in the numbers quoted here. DC united DOES have great following, BUT the number you sould use for attendence, is the average amount between all three sports on a saturday or friday night..... then and only then can you get a true picture of what sells better...

Posted by: realist | January 8, 2007 3:04 PM

First off, some of you folks should chill out--the bickering and going back and forth really is juvenile. Why can't all sports get along? As far as I'm concerned, these are all contact sports--if anything, make fun of golf or the fact that ESPN airs the Poker Championships (which I'm guilty of watching).

Second, for any venue to succeed in DC, Metro needs to be nearby, which addresses Stick's question. "Step back, doors opening." Welcome to Anacostia station. It's a five minute walk, maybe less, from Poplar Point.

Third, will people be willing to go to it? Lots of youth interest, presumably great ticket prices, and the wave of gentrification/development seem to indicate that lots of people will be coming. I live about 10 minutes from Anacostia station and have watched as Starbucks stands have appeared as well as $500,000 houses. Just across Poplar Point a new set of skyscrapers (by DC standards, mind you) are cropping up on M Street and New Jersey Avenue. And of course, the structure of the baseball stadium is dangerously close to being finished. With the proposed development (retail, residential, and the stadium), Poplar Point will be a huge draw. Not to mention that hundreds of subarbanites have routinely been bringing their kids to Anacostia Park for years to play soccer and frisbee.

So, will LAX be as popular as the Redskins? No. Can it work? I'm pretty sure it can. Especially if the franchise takes steps to reach out to the folks in the area as DC United has done/is doing.

Posted by: Mike | January 8, 2007 3:34 PM

fc mustangs mom,

but did you buy those $99 season tickets?

you're correct that lacrosse is already "successful" in DC. at the youth and high school level. but it was also already "successful" at those levels (and in college) in Baltimore (and for about a hundred years longer). the point is not whether kids in DC like lacrosse, but whether those kids (and you, their parents) will shell out money to go watch professional lacrosse (perhaps in "scary" Anacostia, to boot)... will you? I sure hope so.

Posted by: Troy | January 8, 2007 3:38 PM

One other thing that people should know -- MLL is one entity. If I'm not mistaken, the league owns each individual team (at least that's how it started out). So it may be that the Washington Bayhawks will "reach out" to the community, but that must come from Body by Jake (who bankrolled the league) and his investment partners, not any individual "owner" of the "franchise."

Posted by: OD | January 8, 2007 3:43 PM

As a long time player and fan of lacrosse, I will not attend MLL games. Not there. Not here. Not anywhere! I guess you would call me a lax "purist". I don't like MLL's rules that emphasize offense. Lacrosse is played on both sides of the ball. You won't get to see Brodie Merrill's electric LSM play on a face-off in the MLL.

However, even if MLL followed NCAA lacrosse rules, I still wouldn't attend MLL games. I've never liked the image of MLL, and would hate to see all of the negative aspects of other pro sports permeate into lacrosse. This is not to say I don't enjoy watching or attending other pro sporting events, but I've always thought of lacrosse as something reserved... something special that would never get bogged down in green backs (players stay all four years in college... no labor disputes... etc.). The kids that play in school are playing for the game. They know that financial security will not likely result from their skill of the game.

The college game is much, much better and with G'Town, UMD, Hopkins, Loyola, Towson, UMBC, and Navy in the area, there are lots of great teams to see. If you can't see a game on Saturday afternoon, UMD plays Duke on a Friday night, Hopkins Saturday night, and has three other games Tuesday afternoons.

I've already bought my tickets for the Face-Off Classic and 2007 NCAA Championships in Baltimore. Go Hop!

And with all the United talk going around, I support them and see at least 2-3 matches a year.

Posted by: Stephen | January 8, 2007 3:44 PM

Stephen, you are the definition of a short-sighted lacrosse "purist," a case study in the reason why the team failed in Baltimore, and probably one of those annoying Hopkins fans that never played.

Were you someone that truly loved the sport, you would support the league, if for no other reason than to give the "kids" you idolize an opportunity to keep playing. All the athletes you root for in the spring immediately sign up to play pro in the summer; not much changes during those few weeks. Ryan Curtis signed his pro contract on the hood of a car outside Byrd Stadium after the national championship game. I would have killed for that opportunity. Yes, the club league used to operate as essentially a post-collegiate semipro league, but now everything's been bumped up a level. And I could never have played club ball before, but now I can. And I can enjoy watching my friends play professionally at an even higher level.

Stop being a snob stuck in the past. Lacrosse has already changed, it's changed many times in the last fifteen years, and it will change many times in the next five. If you truly love the game, take ownership of it at all levels and support it.

Posted by: OD | January 8, 2007 4:09 PM

guess you did play, Stephen, but I still think your opinion is short-sighted.

Posted by: OD | January 8, 2007 4:12 PM

Lacrosse is a great game. Far more entertaining than baseball, much quicker than soccer, and should attract a loyal following as long as the tickets are resonably priced and the games are at decent times (kids love lacrosse). My son has played for over 10 years and loves the game. I would encourage people to give it a try.

Posted by: Debbie | January 8, 2007 4:12 PM

I agree with Jack and the other guy who said lacrosse won't make it in the District. As a Maryland alumn, I think that the sport is more suited for college than pros. I think that the people who are willing to pay to see a game ($99 is too expensive consistently) won't be enough to sustain the sport. Also, who would cover it: Comcast, MASN...the television revenue divisions would be difficult to address. Who would be the primary fans? Kids? Are they paying the $99.00? This is an elitist sport and won't have the backing of the regular joes as it does in other cities...at least not enough to sustain the sport...therein, lies the key. Enough to sustain the sport!

Posted by: gr8bigguy | January 8, 2007 5:06 PM

You can't compare lacrosse to itself. It has to compete with hundreds of other forms of entertainment, and will fail here quickly.

Lacrosse's chances are best in areas that are starved for things to do. Look to the midwest, where minor league baseball sells out (the stadium by my home town even had luxury boxes).

Posted by: bkp | January 8, 2007 5:37 PM

As far as Lacrosse goes I'm definitely nothing more than a casual fan. If I happen to come across a game on TV and nothing else of much entertainment value is on, I'll watch. That said, I've seen MLL games, I've seen NLL games, and I've seen NCAA games. Of the 3, college lacrosse is infinitely more engrossing. MLL reminds me of the XFL, and NLL reminds me of the AFL (Arena) not exactly beacons of success. I don't see an MLL franchise succeeding in the district, and I don't see how or why the new United ownership would be interested in sharing Poplar Point with lacrosse. As others have already said, lacrosse destroys the field, more so than grid-ball. After years of having the pitch at RFK ruined by basepaths and a pitchers mound, I don't believe United would want to deal with another field headache. Synthetic turf (fieldturf, sport-turf, sprinturf etc) will not be an option, as the ownership group will be keen on attracting USMNT matches as well as other international friendlies, and FIFA frowns upon the plastic grass at it's highest levels (even synthetic that is FIFA approved).

Posted by: AlecW81 | January 8, 2007 5:44 PM

OD,
I don't need to prove anything to you. I've played my share of games, and likely know a bit more about lacrosse then you do. I bet I was scoring goals while you were wetting your Pampers. There's nothing wrong with the past. In fact, it's important to remember the past and where this game has come from.

I know some go on to play pro after college, but most don't. And if that was your life dream to play pro, then I'm sorry you weren't good enough to make it.
You don't need a pro league to continue playing lax after college. As you mentioned, there are traveling clubs and community leagues.

You can't sway me. We'll just disagree on this one.

Posted by: Stephen | January 8, 2007 5:58 PM

They should put the team out in NoVa instead of D.C. I think more people would come out to see a MLL game. D.C. is football first, baseball second, anything else last. But in NoVa, where the love of the game is relativly higher, there would be a better attendance.

Posted by: PC | January 8, 2007 6:30 PM

I'm by no means an expert in either sport, but here's my 2 cents anyway:

I think pro lacrosse in general -- not just DC but countrywide -- will be successful in the long term, and has the chance to become even more successful than MLS. My reasoning? Soccer has the offside rule, which as far as I'm concerned stunts the flow of play too much, limits scoring, and is never adequately enforced by the on-field officials. Lacrosse, on the other hand, does not (at least not something similar from what I can detect).

If a lacrosse midfielder picks up the ball near his team's goal, he has the chance to run it the whole length of the field, outrunning all opposing defenders and engaging the goalie in a one-on-one challenge (usually driving the crowd wild as he runs, dodging and juking, just like a soccer player does until the side ref whistles him offside). The only time anything remotely like that kind of one-on-one with the goalie happens in Soccer is in penalty kicks (which for all intents and purposes are offside kicks) that wind up deciding way too many championship-level games.

Am I "missing something" about the original meaning of the offside rule? Most likely. But I'm just reacting to what I see when watching soccer either on TV or live.

Besides, when little kids play soccer, at some point the adults have to teach them the offside rule, and I've seen a lot of debate about when is the appropriate time to introduce them to it.

My comparison may be completely wrong, and I invite anyone to correct me.

Posted by: JJ | January 8, 2007 6:37 PM

First: To respond to Jeff, who wrote: "I'll gladly take my soccer and the beautiful foreign babes the game attracts over your billards and bull riding." Have you ever seen the rodeo babes that to to the summer bull riding at Liberty Maryland? Trust me, they're babes as good looking and intelligent as you'll find at any international soccer match. And, they have their own hats and boots.

As for lacrosse, I have a son who grew up overseas playing tennis 6 or 7 days a week, upwards of 6 to 8 or more sets on Saturdays and Sundays, switched to lacrosse at about 10 years old and loved it since to the point he gave up tennis. We attended a number of indoor lacrosse games in Baltimore, and like hockey, on a limited sized field, the indoor game is great to watch. But, as much as I like lacrosse and am a devoted lacrosse family member, there's a limited audience for the game, in the same manner that there's a diehard audience for jai lai, pro wrestling, or the various rodeo or track and field events.

The question is, is there enough of a potential audience to start with (I think yes), will the game be affordable enough to encourage people to virtually come in off the street to watch and decide they like it (read that as 'will it be $2 or $5 cheap?'), will it be able to be watched easily by first and second-timers (because if you don't catch their interest, you'll lose them as a customer), and, can you get the local sports radio stations to talk about the games/league during the local shows?

As many sports and teams that play in teh DC metro area, it's amazing how little sports coverage there really is; other than broadcasting the games of some teams, most local coverage is scores, if that much. When, for example, have you heard the minor league baseball scores? That's something that will be needed to help any lacrosse team in DC.

I can't see lacrosee being much more than a niche sport in DC, in the way hockey is. You would think that hockey, played indoors where you can have a beer and not need your coat, a fast paced game, would attract a larger fan base, but it's a sport, here in DC, that's at best a second tier sport, probably third tier. (Again, hockey is a sport, at least in DC, that should virtually open the doors to people off the street, $5 tickets if necessary, and create a fan base both for the local team and the sport in general). Even if there's a potential fan base here for lacrosse, the team/league needs to approach it as if there were none, as if they were introducing an entirely new sport.

Make players accessible to the media, to local schools and local lacrosse leagues/teams, give free clinics, make ticket prices minimal and discount them further for school or league lacrosse players (charge their adult the full "low" cost of a ticket), give away shirts and freebies. As much as it may be location, location, location, you can't depend only on the car-driving public; you need to make it Metro accessible, it's also marketing, marketing, marketing.


Posted by: Dungarees@gmail.com | January 8, 2007 7:26 PM

I think pro lacrosse can make it in the DC area. MLL has long-term potential and lacrosse has enough of a following to carry it through the short-term. The League will get better and seem more refined as it grows (if I'm wrong, it can't get any less dignified than the NBA or NFL). We should have the nation's oldest game in the nation's capital city. I have a feeling lacrosse could catch on among some immigrant groups as well. For instance, soccer is an international game to be sure and baseball is an American/Japanese pastime. However, we also have a large portion of South Asian immigrants, coming from a land where cricket and men's field hockey are quite popular. I have a feeling field hockey players might be intrigued by lacrosse, but I'm certainly fallible. Regardless, we should give this Washington lacrosse team a try. It may be that a joint stadium isn't the best bet. Perhaps a stadium in Northern Virginia is better...in Alexandria or Arlington and close to a Metro station. That way it's accessible to DC and Maryland fans, is still a Washington team, but is in the heart of DC lacrosse country. Plus, Virginia did lose out on the Nats, they might as well get something.

Posted by: mgturn | January 8, 2007 7:37 PM

The sport will do well if it has a lot of hot cheerleaders with short skirts and big supports for their team. Without the cheerleaders, well, it's just hockey, chess, soccer or -- worst of all -- baseball.

Posted by: A Fan | January 8, 2007 9:11 PM

Again, let's talk reality...it will not be successful...or no where as equal to other major sports..ie., baseball, basketball, football.

Forget it, you people that see the glass as half full...just remember the other half is air.

Lacrosse will not be successful in DC.

Sorry, but that's just the way it is

Posted by: Frankey | January 9, 2007 2:15 PM

I think a "professional" lacrosse league would be a failure in DC. Although Maryland is a large supporter of lacrosse the fact that the stadium will be in DC is the most important part. DC is a very international city with people from all over the states and the world and lacrosse would not really serve or entice their interests. DC United, the Redskins, Caps and Wizards do relatively well because all of those sports have a large following throughout the US. Now, I think the plethora of "professional" leagues that exist are a hindrance to the success of DC national teams and should just stick to being recreational. All i really have to say about this is: remember the XFL?

Posted by: Joel | January 9, 2007 5:08 PM

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