KENNESAW — Lacrosse enthusiasts who would like to see a Major League Lacrosse team in the metro-Atlanta area now have their chance.
MLL will host a regular-season game between the Boston Cannons and the Rochester Rattlers on June 7 at KSU Stadium. The contest will be the first professional lacrosse game played in Georgia, and if there is a good crowd with positive feedback, MLL commissioner David Gross said the stadium would become home to a new franchise — possibly beginning play as early as 2014.
“Usually, we like to give a team 18 months to prepare to allow it to get its marketing started,” Gross said. “But by playing this game in June, the marketing here is already started. If it goes well, we would not have any problem announcing an expansion team for 2014.”
Gross said a “great sign” heading toward expansion would be for the June 7 game, which is being put on by MLL in conjunction with LB3 Lacrosse and the Atlanta Sports Council, to draw 5,000 or more fans.
But Gross also said the big thing isn’t so much the attendance as how much do the fans enjoy the game.
“If the reaction is ‘meh,’ which I don’t expect it to be, then we hold off,” Gross said. “But the sport is fast-paced, action-packed and there is plenty of hitting — everything a sports fan wants to see.”
Tickets, set to go on sale March 1, and will range in cost from $15-$50 and can be purchased online at www.mllatl.com.
Gross has been open about wanting to expand MLL, which plays a 14-game schedule from April to August, to eventually reach as many as 16 teams by the end of the decade. He said Atlanta has been on the radar for expansion for a long time, but they could never come up with a proper venue until KSU Stadium became available.
“This is the venue we want,” he said.
The 8,300-seat stadium is a perfect-sized venue for MLL based on the attendance numbers of the current eight franchises — Boston, Charlotte, Chesapeake (Md.), Denver, Hamilton (Ontario), New York, Columbus (Ohio) and Rochester (N.Y.). In 2012, the league averaged 5,608 fans per game.
KSU Stadium will also be serving as home of the university’s inaugural women’s lacrosse program, which will begin play Feb. 10.
Rochester will give up one of its home games to come to Atlanta, and Rattlers vice president and assistant general manager Nathan Snyder said they are excited to come see KSU Stadium and the Atlanta-area fans first-hand.
“Giving up a home game is a little tough,” Snyder said, “but we feel like Atlanta is a strong market, and if we want this league to keep growing, we have to bring the game to the emerging (lacrosse) markets.”
The game will be the centerpiece of a week-long lacrosse showcase at KSU and north Georgia.
It will start with a four-day individual and team camp being held by the Syracuse University men’s lacrosse program June 3-6 at Berry College just outside Rome.
The attention will then move to KSU on June 7 for the beginning of LB3 Lacrosse’s three-day Summer Jam, a 150-team tournament that will be broken into age groups — from 11-and-under to high school college prospects.
Marty Elliott, executive director and general manager of the KSU Sports and Recreation Park that includes KSU Stadium, said the tournament will utilize the complex’s seven fields, as well as the North Atlanta Soccer Association’s United Quest Park on Hawkins Store Road in northeast Cobb County.
Liam Banks, founder and CEO of LB3, said the Summer Jam event will close Sunday with championship games at KSU Stadium, including a high school all-star game that will be seen by more than 50 coaches from the premier lacrosse programs around the country.
Admission to the Summer Jam and high school all-star games will be free.