Aloha Lacrosse is the oldest, best-established national lacrosse tournament company in the United States. Aloha now annually hosts over 50,000 players and 125,000 fans at its events every year, drawing players and families from dozens of states and internationally. From the beginning, Aloha was dedicated to making the tournament experience more than a few games and a trophy, but rather, to providing the ultimate youth sports tournament experience to every player, coach, parent or fan that participates in its events.
Sports Destination Management: Aloha is a fixture on the tournament circuit. How long has the organization been around?
Colby Wehner: The organization actually started in 1999 so it has been around a little more than 20 years. It began with an event called Lax Splash; that was set up as a low-cost event anyone could participate in, taking place in the Greater Baltimore area. Back then, a lot of rec teams came and played. It grew and we now still put on Lax Splash in the Baltimore area the first weekend in June, but it gets up to 10,000 athletes and is held across multiple venues.
SDM: Outside of Lax Splash, how many events does Aloha put on now?
Wehner: We now run around 15 events – five in the fall and 10 in the summer. We’re not just hosting events in Baltimore any longer, either.
SDM: What age groups are tournaments hosting?
Wehner: Lax Splash is youth-only, with no high school players, but it varies in every tournament.
SDM: How did it get the Aloha name? That’s something you might see more associated with tournaments in Hawai’i.
Wehner: Our founders thought of it. They loved Hawaii and they had been there dozens of times and obviously, they associated it with fun. We work to create a fun atmosphere in all our events. In fact, we have a tiki village with exhibitors. We also have a really cool T-shirt design; people look forward to it each year; there are people who collect those shirts and talk about them.
SDM: Are any of the tournaments you’re putting on recruitment events?
Wehner: Some are college recruitment events; we will see Division I, II and III coaches there. We try to create an atmosphere that allows people to meet and get to know one another. We also occasionally do all-star events and those are good opportunities as well.
SDM: Are you seeing more girls’ teams, more boys’ teams or an even split?
Wehner: We’re seeing more boys, but lacrosse is growing on both sides.
SDM: What do you look for in facilities to potentially host your tournaments?
Wehner: We like to find places where everyone can be on one site; we like turf fields as well. We’re always looking for ways to grow our brand and add to the tournament options for teams.
SDM: Any idea of the economic impact of a tournament?
Wehner: At every one of our regionals, we work with convention and visitors bureaus – except for Baltimore because we’ve been in this market for so long – but for our tournaments in Charlotte and Ocean City, Maryland, the CVBs have reported between $500,000 and $1M. It really varies, though. Our Texas tournament is generally around $200,000 to $300,000, although it’s been as high as $500,000. In Salt Lake City, we have a lot of growth, and that event brings in between $300,000 and $400,000.
SDM: You mentioned you have a tournament in Ocean City, Maryland; is that played on the sand?
Wehner: No, it’s played on turf. We work our schedules out so that we can end play earlier so that people can get in and out more easily – or have time to stay and enjoy the area, if that is what they want.
SDM: How do you get volunteers for your events?
Wehner: We always work with local organizations, and we have a staffing database for volunteers that includes people from clubs, school programs, etc. We give them a donation to their lacrosse team and in exchange, they’ll come and work our event. In Ocean City, families may work for us doing the day because they are already there.
SDM: If someone wants to host an Aloha event, who do they get in touch with?
Wehner: They can reach out to me by e-mail (Colby@alohatournaments.com).
As I mentioned before, we’re always looking for ways to grow our brand. We just did a not-for-profit tournament in Florida, Lax Against Leukemia. We’re interested in hearing people’s ideas for working together.