Peter Francesconi 2016-07-25 04:14:39
Lacrosse’s Fast Break THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THE SPORT OF LACROSSE IS HOT. Sports tourism execs in many areas around the country say lacrosse is growing fast in their locations. Stats from US Lacrosse bear that out, too. More than 800,000 athletes played on organized teams in 2015, and participation in the sport has grown every year since it was first surveyed in 2001. The Physical Activity Council, which tracks sports participation, puts total involvement in lacrosse in the U.S. at 2.1 million players for 2015, up 4.1 percent from 2014. Clearly, the sport that was once thought to be found only in the Mid-Atlantic region has spread, and more clubs, programs and tournaments are popping up across the map. Butler County, Ohio Butler County, Ohio, is typical of the locations high on lacrosse. “It’s one of our quickest growing sports,” says Tracy Kocher, director of marketing for the Butler County Visitors Bureau. “We have a very large lacrosse community, and it continues to grow.” Kocher says the premier facility in Butler County for lacrosse is Voice of America MetroPark, which offers 20 grass and two turf fields. The facility is close to I- 75, and restaurants, hotels and shopping are all located within two miles, she adds. “Most of our lacrosse events go into Voice of America MetroPark, and sometimes their championship games take place at some of the high school stadiums in the county with turf fields.” Among the events at VOA is the IWLCA deBeer Midwest Cup, a two-day event each June that brings in 84 teams, and the Top of the Bay Midwest Cup, a two-day event in July. Another top venue for lacrosse is the expansive Joyce Park in Hamilton, Ohio, which has more than 40 multi-purpose fields available and has hosted very large events. And there’s also Smith Park in Middletown, Ohio, which in April hosted the 60-team Steel City Shootout. “There are a lot of club teams in this area for lacrosse,” Kocher says, “so the sport has a ton of support, which is great for events coming into this area.” Maryland Sports “When it comes to lacrosse, we probably have more facilities available in Maryland than anywhere in the country,” says Terry Hasseltine, the executive director of Maryland Sports. “In fact, lacrosse is the official team sport of the state of Maryland.” But that’s not all. US Lacrosse, the national governing body of the sport, just moved to new headquarters in Baltimore County, with a field right outside of its offices, as well as an education and training center and room for a new National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum. Also, four major lacrosse tournament owners call Maryland home: Aloha Tournaments, Corrigan Sports Enterprises, Hogan’s Lacrosse and Elite Tournaments. Of course, facilities in the state have played host to many major lacrosse events, including the NCAA Men’s and Women’s National Championships on numerous occasions and the U.S. Lacrosse Women’s National Tournament. Earlier this year, the state saw events such as the Big 10 Men’s Lacrosse Championships, NCAA Women’s Lacrosse first- and second-round games, the Brine Lax Tournament, Laxapalooza, the 22nd Annual Lax Max Lacrosse Tournament and the Maryland Lacrosse Showdown. Not surprisingly, there are dozens of facilities and venues available throughout Maryland for lacrosse. One of the biggest is the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, which has 24 full-size fields, including three turf fields with lights and three natural grass fields with lights. Cedar Lane Regional Park in Bel Air offers 13 fields (12 natural grass, one turf); the turf field features a new state-of-the-art scoreboard with LED video and seating for 900 spectators. The Harford Polo Grounds in Jarrettsville offers nine grass fields. Calvert Regional Sports Park in the city of North East has one turf and nine natural grass fields, and for larger tournaments, the three fields at the adjacent high school can be pressed into service. Amenities include lights, scoreboard, press box, team meeting space and more. Carsins Run Fields in Aberdeen has 12 natural grass fields, and the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium accommodates lacrosse events on six grass fields on the infield of the motorsports track. Blandair Park in Columbia offers three synthetic turf fields. Just opening is Troy Park in Elkridge, with four lighted synthetic turf fields, including a stadium field with covered and uncovered seating for 1,500 spectators and lights designed for TV. Colorado Springs, Colorado The El Pomar Youth Sports Complex in Colorado Springs, which was created through a unique public/private/non-profit partnership and is maintained by the City of Colorado Springs, offers eight natural grass fields and one synthetic turf field. Lacrosse, says Cheryl McCullough, the director of sports and special events for Visit Colorado Springs, “is definitely one of the fastest-growing sports in our community. We have a well-established lacrosse club in town, which is a great resource when we’re bringing in events. We can reach out to local chapters that can help with events and provide support and volunteers.” On back-to-back weekends in July, El Pomar Youth Sports Complex hosts an Adrenaline Lacrosse Boys Showcase and Elite & High School Shootout, and a Middle School & Youth Shootout, with more than 1,500 players. Also, over Labor Day weekend, the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Showcase takes place at El Pomar, attracting players from multiple states. In the past, El Pomar has hosted other events, including the U.S. Lacrosse Women’s Collegiate Associates tournament. “We host events all over the country,” says Suzanne Keller of Adrenaline Lacrosse, based in San Diego, “but the sports, friendship and dedication we get from Colorado Springs keeps us coming back.” Other city venues, all with natural grass fields, include Memorial Park, which has 15 sports fields, Cottonwood Creek Community Park, with four fields, and the “Goose” Gossage Youth Sports Park, offering three sports fields. McCullough also says there are new facilities that will be coming online soon, one of which has already broken ground. Greenville, South Carolina In early May, Greenville hosted the inaugural NAIA Men’s & Women’s Lacrosse Invitational, which will return in “The NAIA’s goal with this event is to have a national championship in 2018,” says Robin Wright, senior sales manager of sports for Visit Greenville, “and this **year’s tourney was hugely successful.” The event was held in downtown Greenville at Sirrine Stadium, which seats about 15,000 fans and was built in 1936 for Furman University football. The grass field facility is now used by Greenville High School and had recent upgrades to the scoreboard, press box and more. “We have over 40 fields within the city and in Greenville County, both in complexes and as single fields, that are suitable for lacrosse,” Wright says. “They’re all within a 20-minute drive.” Among the facilities is the 16-field, allgrass Mesa Sports Complex, which hosted the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Championship twice in recent years and was instrumental in attracting the NAIA event to the city. “After the MCLs, I reached out to the chair and co-chair of that event to help with the first year of the NAIAs this year, and they did a phenomenal job,” Wright says. “I can’t emphasize enough how important partnerships and relationships are with local organizations in helping with events. It’s important to clients to have those community partnerships.” Greenville continues to grow; Wright says by the end of 2017, six new hotels will open. “We’re starting to be a lot more notable. We’re doing a new sports campaign and putting everything together, to make sure we’re doing what the client needs when it comes to bringing events to our community.” Hamilton County/ Grand Park, Indiana With 31 fields available, including seven synthetic turf fields, and many with lights, Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana, is truly a sports destination (the campus also has 26 baseball/softball diamonds as well as two indoor facilities). In July, the 400- acre facility will host the eighth annual U. S. Lacrosse National Championships for girls (July 19-21) and boys (July 22-24) in U13, U14 and U15. “From a travel perspective, the majority of national events want to use Grand Park due to the sheer number of fields available,” says William Knox, director of sports for the Hamilton County Sports Authority. “We have a lot of support for lacrosse in our area. It’s one of the fastestgrowing sports in our community.” Other facilities available for lacrosse tournaments and events include Cyntheanne Park in Fishers, Indiana, which is home to five fields and includes a concessions building. There are also the six fields at River Road Fields in Carmel, also with concessions, and Badger Park in Carmel, which has multiple multi-purpose fields available. LakePoint, Emerson, Georgia Just 35 miles north of downtown Atlanta is the sprawling LakePoint Sporting Community, with more than 1,300 acres in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. Right now, the Lacrosse Complex at Lake- Point features three lighted synthetic turf fields, all with state-of-the-art drainage. But by utilizing the outfield space of the eight all-turf, Major League-size baseball diamonds right next door, the complex can currently accommodate 11 lacrosse fields. The next phase of development — the North Campus, aiming to be ready in 2018 — will add eight more multi-purpose fields, seven of which will feature sport-specific synthetic turf, with one natural grass field in a stadium. In the last few years, the South Campus complex has been the host for a number of lacrosse events. In October, the NXT Sports — Southern Tilt lacrosse event takes to the LakePoint fields, followed by the return in November of the Lax Life Events— Atlanta Tournament of Lacrosse. (Last year, the Lax Life tourney brought nearly 4,000 visitors for the weekend event.) This past June, the Under Armour All-America Underclass Lacrosse Tryout was held at LakePoint. The community currently has two hotels on site, along with three restaurants, but plans call for a total of more than 20 hotels to be built on the property. There also is a new indoor sports facility. Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania Lehigh University, located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, plays host to a number of large lacrosse tournaments throughout the year, including the annual Lehigh LaxFest and Laxpalooza events, two of the largest sporting events in Lehigh Valley. The university has a variety of facilities available, all in close proximity, including the three-field Ulrich Sports Complex, which offers a turf field, an Astrograss turf field and a natural grass field, and the 16,000-seat Goodman Stadium. Lehigh Valley also offers field facilities at other area colleges, too, including Muhlenberg College, DeSales University, Kutztown University and Lafayette College. “We’re very fortunate that our location in the mid-Atlantic region is a big reason for our success in hosting multiple events every year,” says Michael Kusmuk, director of sports marketing for Discover Lehigh Valley Sports. The area is easily accessible by car and within driving distance of most mid-Atlantic cities. There are also dozens of options for accommodations and dining to fit all budgets. Placer Valley, California The Cherry Island Soccer Complex in Elverta, California, offers nine natural grass fields for lacrosse and, among other events, hosts the Bonanza Girls Lacrosse tournament in November, which is returning to the venue for the third straight year. “It’s a huge event,” says Kim Summers, the director of marketing for Placer Tourism, “with over 60 girls’ teams participating, from fifth grade to high school.” College coaches also attend the event. The 152-acre Maidu Regional Park in Roseville has five grass fields available for lacrosse, with lights, and the Foskett Regional Park in Lincoln offer four grass fields, also with lights. Summers says the region is working to open a 10-field synthetic turf sports complex in 2018. Placer Valley is located just east of Sacramento, California, off of I-80. The area has more than 20 hotels, all within 15 miles, and Placer Valley Tourism works with hotels and local organizations to help tournament owners and organizers with their events, including offering a grants program.
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