Editor’s Note: Chris Rosenthall takes a look at the NEXT great lacrosse hotbed. Originally we were in for a heavyweight battle, but now we get to see a Royal Rumble. Where Is The Next Great Lacrosse Mecca?!?!?!?!
This post was originally going to be completely different. It was going to be called “Boston vs. Denver”, and I was going to have the two cities battling it out to determine who gets to join Baltimore and Long Island (apologies to Upstate NY) as an official “Mecca of Lacrosse”. Two cities enter, one city leaves. Simple enough, right?
I sat down and laid out each side’s arguments like a court battle. Boston’s got the reigning MLL champs, but the Denver Outlaws drew 27,000 for their Fourth of July game. They’ve split hosting duties for the past four MLL All-Star games, so that doesn’t help much either. The Colorado Mammoth always draw huge indoor crowds, but Boston could potentially field two pro indoor teams next year, so we’re really back where we started. Boston’s hosting the 2012 NCAA Championships, but Denver hosts the World Championships in 2014. Still not helping. Boston University’s going D1 soon, but the University of Denver went to the Final Four last year. Also, Mark Matthews did this last month:
Neither here nor there, I just wanted an excuse to show that clip. Those are grown men, Mark Matthews. How dare you, sir? Dirty. Anyway, where was I?
Like I said, it WAS going to be Boston vs. Denver, but both cities deserved to win, so it looks like we’ve got ourselves a Mount Rushmore of great lacrosse cities. So here’s the new, and more pressing, question: what’s the NEXT city going to be?
Note: If you guys see fit, it may be time to grant Mecca status to Philadelphia as well. They’re hosting the 2013 NCAA Championships, the Philadelphia Wings have been in the indoor game for over twenty years and they’ve got two NCAA D1 programs in the top 20. And by the way, eight of last year’s Under Armour All-Americans came from Philly. But since they have the benefit of being located halfway between the original Meccas (and mainly because it screws up my Mount Rushmore analogy), let’s challenge ourselves and dig a little deeper.
Photo from NELaxBlog’s article Yes, New England Is A Lacrosse Hot Bed.
Who has the soil fertile enough to create another Denver situation? Let’s take a look at three potential regions:
The immediate candidate out of the Southeast has to be Charlotte, North Carolina; I hear lacrosse is huge down there. On one hand, it has a new MLL team that’s loaded with stars, and (maybe) a new pro indoor team. On the other hand, Charlotte is hours away from the state’s big college programs, so they won’t get to capitalize on NCAA success the same way Denver has.
Charlotte does have an NFL stadium though, and that could come in handy if Inside Lacrosse is looking to host one of their big events similar to the Big City or Face-Off Classics down there. I’m looking forward to seeing the Hounds’ attendance numbers this summer, which could definitely sway the city’s chances in either direction.
There’s a lot of potential for a midwestern city to go to the next level. The NCAA quarterfinals are headed to Indianapolis in 2013, Ohio is getting an MLL team this summer, Michigan has two new NCAA D1 programs and Wisconsin has one on the way. With nearby Brother Rice High School consistently sending players to top college programs, Detroit may be the frontrunner in the area.
Unfortunately, I hear it gets so cold in the D, so the weather could potentially hurt a midwestern city’s chances over a candidate that can play outdoors year-round. With OSU and an MLL team on the way this summer, Columbus, Ohio seems like a stronger candidate down the road.
Since we’re talking about weather, you can never rule out a city in California. A Californian playing Division 1 lacrosse used to be a huge deal, but in 2012, seven of the preseason top ten programs have at least one on their roster. The state’s well represented in the top MCLA rankings, and (as the dozens of former NCAA stars who’ve switched coasts can attest to) the game is skyrocketing in popularity all over the place.
They haven’t had much luck with the pro game (R.I.P. San Francisco Dragons, L.A. Riptide, Anaheim Storm and San Jose Stealth), but as soon as a big name like USC goes D1, this discussion might be all over. Or will Oregon go D1 first? If they do, and Nike gets on board in major way, Oregon could be the new spot.
So there you have it, a few potential nominees for your consideration. Will one of these regions create the next lacrosse Mecca, or will Texas, Florida or somewhere else in the Pacific Northwest have something to say about it? It could be a while before we carve another city onto the mountain, but if you look at Denver’s timeline (Mammoth founded in 2003, Outlaws founded in 2006), it could happen more quickly than you’d think.
So where do YOU think the next Lacrosse Mecca will emerge?
For more on future D1 growth, check out the Boston University Model For D1 Growth!