The Growth of Lacrosse
27 Jun, 2019By: Judy Leand
With Plenty of Host Cities, the Sport Maintains a Strong Trajectory
Over the past few years, lacrosse has ditched its niche status, becoming one of the fastest-growing team sports in America. From 2001 to 2017, total participation skyrocketed 226 percent in both genders and across all levels, according to US Lacrosse. The sport also presents an excellent opportunity for communities because it can utilize space also suitable to soccer, rugby and field hockey. Here are eight locales that are ready to help lacrosse event planners get on the stick.
Columbia, South Carolina
With more than 80,000 residents across six counties, Columbia’s greater metro region, known as the Midlands, has the second-largest population in the state. The spring and fall are prime seasons for lacrosse, and the city hosts 15 to 20 lacrosse events annually including pro, amateur, collegiate and youth programs, and is looking to add more.
The Palmetto Health Fields at Saluda Shoals Park is at the heart of the action and boasts six natural grass soccer, lacrosse and multi-use fields, plus a pavilion with restrooms and concessions. The complex is located within the 480-acre Saluda Shoals Park, just 1.5 miles from Lake Murray Dam.
“We’re looking to attract all age ranges and ability levels,” says S. Scott Powers, executive director of Experience Columbia SC Sports. “For lacrosse only, the events have drawn 120,000 participants and spectators, resulting in 11,000 hotel room nights and an estimated economic impact of $1,370,000.” He adds that event participants are both local and from out-of-state, and the latter are typically in the area for two to three days.
Cumming-Forsyth County, Georgia
With 26 synthetic turf fields in 10 parks throughout Forsyth County, the area is a magnet for lacrosse as well as soccer and youth football events. Concession and restroom buildings are located near these playing fields and the largest complex provides six fields available for tournament play and youth programs.
Situated on Lake Lanier, Cumming-Forsyth County offers 644 hotel rooms and there are more than 3,600 available in nearby communities. Other local amenities include award-winning restaurants, breweries and a variety of shopping and attractions.
“Cumming-Forsyth County has hosted several lacrosse tournaments and youth programs. Our key seasons are the summer and fall, and we typically host three to four youth lacrosse tournaments per year,” says Michelle Daniels, director of tourism, Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce. “The 2018 youth lacrosse program had 1,065 participants in the spring and 650 in the fall. With our ideal climate and synthetic turf multi-purpose fields, game play is fantastic in all seasons.”
Playing an integral role in Maryland’s reputation as a lacrosse hotbed, Harford County is strategically located on I-95 along the shores of Chesapeake Bay, just 25 miles northeast of Baltimore and an hour from Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
The city hosts men’s and women’s pro competitions, college-level tournaments and many youth tournaments, and attracts teams from New York to the Carolinas and out to the Midwest, with a special emphasis on the Mid-Atlantic. Games are played at two large facilities: Cedar Lane Regional Park, a 110-acre multi-sport complex with 14 fields; and Carsins Run, which provides 13 fields. All surfaces are grass with the exception of one synthetic turf field.
“Cedar Lane and Carsins Run host about 15 lacrosse events annually from mid-March to the end of November, and we can always expand this number,” says Greg Pizzuto, executive director of Visit Harford! “We’re looking to host tournaments for all ages with an emphasis on 16- to 18-year-olds. During these events, we invite college coaches to attend and observe players from across the Mid-Atlantic in one area.”
Harford has about 150 restaurants plus 40 hotels totaling 2,800 rooms, all within five miles of the lacrosse facilities. Pizzuto notes that looking ahead, “The fields are scheduled to be re-sodded, with the potential to install additional turf fields. We’ll be losing the Carsins Run facility in 2021, but there is a group looking into finding a new location or building a new facility to support our soccer and lacrosse needs.”
Lake County, Illinois
Bordered by Lake Michigan and located just 30 miles north of downtown Chicago and minutes from southeastern Wisconsin, Lake County is a premier sports and recreation destination with a number of venues suitable for lacrosse.
The Waukegan Sports Park includes 14 lighted grass fields and one lighted synthetic turf championship field. The 41-acre Vernon Hills Sports Complex has more than 17 fields and is home to the Pipe City Lacrosse Festival, a boys’ high school recruiting event and youth tournament, and the Midwest’s largest single-site lacrosse competition. Pipe City draws 6,000-plus athletes and more than 50 college coaches, and will celebrate its eighth year this July. For indoor events, the Canlan Sportsplex has two indoor turf fields.
“We typically have four lacrosse events per year, from July through October, with Pipe City being the king,” says Teresa Lewis, sales manager for the Lake County Illinois Convention and Visitors Center. “This fall, we’ll also host 40 teams of 12-year-old girls.”
Lewis adds, “Based on facility availability, we’ll add more lacrosse events to our roster. We’re also looking at adding on more facilities, especially indoor soccer and lacrosse fields and ice.” Lincolnshire is now at work on the St. James project, a 447,526-square-foot indoor facility slated to open in 2020.
Lake George, New York
Situated just a few hours north of New York City and an hour from Albany International Airport, the Lake George Region is active on the lacrosse scene. It offers more than 21 fields, with the main venues being the Golden Goal Sports Park, the Adirondack Sports Complex and the 80-acre Ridge-Jenkinsville Park.
“Over the past couple of years we have hosted the Prime Time Summer Invitational, Trilogy Lacrosse and several other regional tournaments,” says Kristen Hanifin, special event and convention sales director, Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce & CVB. “Golden Goal Sports Park offers on-site housing for over 600, medical staff on-site 24 hours a day, a full-service dining facility with chef and seating for 600, showers/locker rooms, four turf fields, four grass fields, a team-building ropes course and drone videography on-site.” Meanwhile, the Adirondack Sports Complex includes outdoor fields and a 90,000-square-foot dome with indoor fields, locker rooms, concessions and two team warm-up rooms.
Lake George holds four to six lacrosse events in the spring, summer and fall but wants to add more, from youth through collegiate. Hanifin reveals the two events held last summer drew approximately 9,000 spectators and more than 4,000 athletes.
“The CVB is actively growing the sports market in the region, including lacrosse. In particular, it is working with local groups such as ADK Lacrosse to strengthen competition and bring in new events,” says Hanifin. For event planners, the CVB can help facilitate access to bed tax funding and grants to provide financial assistance.
When it comes to regional lacrosse events, the Olympia region has much to offer. The most popular venue is the Lacey-Thurston County Regional Athletic Complex (RAC) that features six fields, including one with all-weather turf and lighting. The complex also has concession stands, restrooms, picnic areas, play areas for kids, and walking trails for those watching the tournaments. About 25 to 30 regional lacrosse teams play at the RAC throughout the year, and include squads from all over Western Washington.
“Youth tournaments (middle school and high school boys and girls) are the largest group utilizing the RAC for lacrosse tournaments, and a regional youth tournament [recently took place] at the end of May,” says Moira Davin, director of marketing & communications for Experience Olympia & Beyond. “There are currently 20 to 30 lacrosse games played throughout the year. Lacrosse is growing in popularity at the complex and we would always welcome more tournaments and games.” She adds that spring is the most popular season for the sport, running from February to the end of May, but lighted turf fields and a mild climate are conducive to year-round play.
“The RAC goes above and beyond for the lacrosse groups, making them feel welcome and doing custom lining for the fields during games,” says Davin.
Round Rock, Texas
Located just 15 miles north of Austin, Round Rock holds the distinct title of “Sports Capital of Texas” for amateur, youth and recreational sports. The destination is well equipped for lacrosse events at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex. The venue has eight fields: four natural grass and four synthetic turf multi-purpose fields, as well as one natural grass and one synthetic turf championship field. This set-up is ideal for hosting lacrosse training and tournaments year-round, and each field can be customized for sports requiring modified sizes. A main clubhouse structure, Musco sports lighting, shaded stadium bleacher seating, and many other amenities round out the package.
“Round Rock hosts a variety of lacrosse events, most notably the WCLA Championships in 2018. The University of Texas lacrosse team has practiced and played games at the Multipurpose Complex, as have area high school teams. The facility also hosts in-house lacrosse camps during the summer for beginner to intermediate youth players,” says Nancy Yawn, director, Round Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Historically, we have hosted two lacrosse events per year but in 2019, we added three new ones to the schedule.”
The WCLA Championships attracted 28 teams totaling 560 participants and nearly 2,500 spectators to Round Rock. Last summer, the Bitter Lacrosse Texas LAX Festival brought 52 teams with 780 participants and close to 1,950 spectators. This year, Bitter Lacrosse brought its Texas LAX Festival back in June and this fall has scheduled another festival at the Multipurpose Complex. Round Rock will also host the OneLAX and Synapse Sports lacrosse tournaments this year.
Says Yawn, “We will continue to expand and promote our lacrosse camps and hopefully offer various school break camps, and possibly year-round training programs as the interest and demand in Central Texas continues to grow. We are looking at adding more regional and national youth lacrosse events over the next three years.”
York County, Pennsylvania
This premier sports destination targets youth club sports and regional tournaments, and most lacrosse event participants hail from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
York County has five main venues with grass fields suited for lacrosse: FusionFC with seven fields plus concession stands, Hanover Area YMCA with two fields as well as locker rooms and medical facilities, Cousler Park with eight fields, Springettsbury Park with two fields, and Joseph C. Stump Memorial Park with four fields. The region also offers 4,000 hotel rooms, a bustling downtown restaurant scene and family-friendly attractions.
“Last year we hosted the Keystone State Games Festival of Sports, including its lacrosse tournament. The Witches With Sticks tournament, which is new for us and has approximately 24 girls’ teams, will be hosted in York County on October 26, 2019,” says Christine Tobias, communications specialist, York County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Keystone State Games drew 5,700 participants and 7,200 spectators across multiple sports, resulting in an economic impact of more than $6 million, according to Tobias.
“We typically hold one to two lacrosse events per year,” says Tobias. “We’re hoping to expand our lacrosse offerings in the coming years and look forward to working with coaches and tournament organizers.” SDM