Lacrosse Takes the Offensive
17 Jul, 2018By: Peter Francesconi
Lacrosse might have been started several centuries ago by the Native Americans but it’s making up for lost time. By many measures, it continues to be one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Year-end 2017 figures by the Physical Activity Council show total participation in the sport jumping to 2.17 million players.
The growth is also borne out by the annual report produced by US Lacrosse, the governing body of the sport. That organization says in 2016, the total number of participants on organized teams grew to more than 826,000, up three percent —but it was the 12th consecutive year that the net increase in players was at least 20,000. In fact, US Lacrosse says the sport continues to be the fastest-growing team sport at the high school and collegiate levels.
Where there is a field, there can easily be lacrosse. These locations around the country can provide excellent facilities for lacrosse tournaments and events.
Annapolis/Anne Arundel County, Maryland
There’s no question that lacrosse is big in Maryland — in fact, it’s the official State Team Sport. Men’s and women’s teams from universities throughout the state have combined to win 12 national championships and have made more finals appearances than any other state. And Maryland is home to the Lacrosse Museum & Hall of Fame and is headquarters for US Lacrosse.
The professional Chesapeake Bayhawks, based in Annapolis, are five-time Major League Lacrosse champions who play their home games at the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Throughout Anne Arundel County, which includes Annapolis, there are more than 17 synthetic turf fields available for fields sports such as lacrosse, says Frank DiVenti, the chief marketing officer for Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County.
In July, the Naptown Challenge, a top national championship tournament, hits the fields throughout the county, with the title match played at the Navy Marine Corps Stadium. “Lacrosse consumes this state, with many iconic programs, such as the men’s and women’s Navy teams,” DiVenti says.
For visitors, the city of Annapolis, Maryland’s state capital and home to the U.S. Naval Academy, is full of history. “We also have a great, casual nightlife every night of the week,” DiVenti notes. “Annapolis is a very small town with a lot of big-town options. Plus, this area is very close to Baltimore and Washington, D.C.”
DE Turf Sports Complex
Delaware’s premier sports facility is the DE Turf Sports Complex, located in Frederica. The venue, which opened in April 2017, features 12 synthetic turf fields, five with lights. The Championship Stadium seats 750 spectators, and there are concessions and restrooms throughout the facility. The complex also features a multi-purpose room that can be used as a tournament headquarters or lounge for coaches or officials. There’s also free Wi-Fi, so organizers can stream matches.
“The DE Turf Sports Complex is managed by a nonprofit organization,” says Chris Giacomucci, the executive director of the complex. “We do a lot of lacrosse events throughout the year; synthetic turf is ideal for the sport.”
In July, the facility will host the National Lacrosse Classic, then in August, the U.S. Lacrosse Youth Nationals. “So far, in our first year, we’ve hosted at least a dozen lacrosse events, working with the country’s top operators,” Giacomucci says. “We want to make sure that we’re providing the best quality of service to visiting teams and families. Our services for tournament organizers are significant.”
The venue is on Highway 1, about 30 minutes north of the Delaware beaches. Both BWI and the Philadelphia airports are about an hour and a half drive. “We’re a destination venue. We get a lot of parents who want to make a long weekend of their time here,” Giacomucci notes.
Florence, South Carolina
For field sports such as lacrosse, the newest venue in Florence, South Carolina, is the Florence Soccer Complex, which currently features 10 natural grass fields (two with lights and bleachers).
While the fields have been open for play and tournaments since February, the city is in the process of adding a $1.5 million building right in the middle of the complex that will contain concessions, restrooms, meeting areas, offices and a wraparound deck on the second floor providing great views of the fields. The new central building is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, says Tim Wilson, the athletic director for the City of Florence.
The Florence Soccer Complex is just off of I-95 and two miles south of the junction with I-20, so it’s very easy to reach. “There are a lot of plans for developing the area around the complex,” Wilson says.
Up until the opening of the Florence Soccer Complex, the premier venue for field sports was the Freedom Florence Recreation Complex, which has three lighted, natural grass fields, along with bleacher seating, concessions, restrooms and a press box between two of the fields.
Greenville-Pitt, North Carolina
Lacrosse continues to grow in the Greenville-Pitt County area of North Carolina. “We host five to seven youth to collegiate lacrosse tournaments a year,” says Gray Williams, the director of sports development for the Greenville-Pitt County CVB. She points out that the Division I East Carolina University, located in Greenville, added a women’s lacrosse team last year, and the East Carolina Youth Lacrosse league is thriving, now with at least 40 teams for young players.
The premier venue is the North Recreational Complex, on the campus of East Carolina University, which works closely with the CVB. The complex offers eight grass fields, with a covered seating area, restrooms and field house that overlooks the fields. Also at the university is the 1,000-seat Johnson Soccer Stadium, built in 2011 and with a state-of-the-art drainage system, concessions, new scoreboard with video board, air-conditioned press box, TV camera platforms and more.
The Greenville-Pitt County CVB offers sports events planners a Tournament Organizer Services Program, which includes site tour development, sponsorship development, lodging and marketing assistance, discounts at local restaurants, public relations assistance, promotional materials, on-site registration assistance and event assistance and more.
Kansas City, Kansas
“Lacrosse is an emerging sport here in Kansas City, Kansas,” says Justin Stine, the meetings and sports sales manager with the CVB. “We have a strong high school presence in terms of more schools in the area developing girls’ and boys’ lacrosse teams, and there is great potential for growth here. We’re positioning ourselves to be a part of the coming lacrosse wave.”
In June 2017, the 52-acre Wyandotte Sporting Fields facility officially opened with eight synthetic fields with lights and four natural grass fields. The complex, which is about 20 minutes from the airport, also offers concessions and restrooms, plus, it’s “literally minutes away from hotels and entertainment,” Stine says.
The Swope Soccer Village, opened in 2007, is a premier soccer venue, but it also has hosted lacrosse events. Swope offers six synthetic turf and three natural grass fields.
There is a lot to do in the Kansas City area, including museums, shopping, dining and nightlife. History is on display at the Wyandotte County Museum, while the Legends Outlet Mall offers more than 100 stores. Five minutes from Wyandotte Sporting Fields is the 282-room Great Wolf Lodge Resort, which offers plenty of family entertainment, including a water park.
Lake County, Illinois
Teresa Lewis, the sports event specialist for the Lake County, Illinois, Convention & Visitors Bureau, says that interest in lacrosse continues to grow in her area. “More and more high schools are becoming involved with lacrosse,” she notes, “and we have growing involvement with younger girls in the club side. Plus, park districts in the region continue to open up to the sport, so the interest is definitely there.”
And the facilities are there, too, including the Waukegan SportsPark and the Vernon Hills Sports Complex/Vernon Hills High School. The Waukegan SportsPark is one of the top complexes in northern Illinois and features 14 outdoor fields, including a lighted synthetic turf Championship Field and two concession stands. Part of the Waukegan Park District, the SportsPark also has a playground with a splash pad for families traveling with children.
The Vernon Hills Sports Complex, which is also part of the Vernon Hills park District, features at least 17 outdoor fields and a stadium field. Vernon Hills, along with other venues in the area, host the huge Pipe City Lacrosse tournament, which typically brings in 600 teams and 6,000 athletes from all over the country and is considered the largest lacrosse tournament in the Midwest, using at least 36 fields. Hundreds of college coaches also attend, looking to recruit lacrosse talent.
About 10 miles south of downtown Houston is the suburb of Pearland, with more than 175 acres of parks plus extensive local school facilities, all suitable for sports of all types, including lacrosse. Kim Sinistore, the executive director of the Pearland CVB, points to three facilities in particular that lend themselves to field sports such as lacrosse.
The Hickory Slough Sportsplex offers six grass fields (three lighted), a concession area with restroom facilities, a large shade canopy for the comfort of visitors and players, and a landscaped promenade and viewing deck. The Pearland Recreation Center & Natatorium has fields behind the main building, which itself is a 107,000-square-foot facility that offers a number of amenities, including multi-purpose meeting rooms. The Shadow Creek Ranch Sportsplex has four fields available for lacrosse, along with concessions and a covered pavilion.
“The Pearland Youth Lacrosse organization does a lot of league play and organizes many events,” says Sinistore. “We have a lot of different sporting events here, so no matter what the sport, in addition to the help that we offer at the CVB, there is always a group interested in helping make events successful.”
When off the field, families may enjoy visiting the Johnson Space Center, which is just 15 miles away. There also are many museums and different activities to enjoy in the area.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
When it comes to lacrosse in Winston-Salem, the main place to play is the BB&T Sports Park. The BB&T features 10 full-size grass fields (eight of which are lighted), along with four lighted turf fields with tiered hillside seating and four smaller lighted turf fields. The Stadium field has seating for 1,400 and hillside seating for an additional 1,000 spectators. In addition, there’s a field house with a multi-media classroom/meeting room that can seat 140, a team classroom for watching videos, restrooms, concession areas, training/medical room and offices. There also is Wi-Fi at the field house, which is expected to expand throughout the park.
Scott Wollaston, the executive director of the BB&T Sports Park, says the venue has hosted a number of lacrosse events. “The park itself has a great layout,” Wollaston says. “The field house is up above everything, so you can watch over the entire complex. When tournament directors bring their events here, they’re easy to manage because they can see everything.”
Twin City Youth Sports Association runs the lacrosse program at BB&T Sports Park, says Christian Schroeder, director of convention sales & service for Visit Winston-Salem. In 2016, the facility hosted the NCAA Division III Women’s Lacrosse Championship, and in late June/early July, the Freedom Cup Challenge boys’ and girls’ tournament and showcase took place there.
“Lacrosse continues to be a growing sport here,” Schroeder adds. “There is great and growing interest in the community for both participating in and volunteering to help out at lacrosse events.” SDM
Come Play at Virginia’s New Lacrosse Field Complex
Embrey Mill Park in Stafford, Virginia, offers an excellent rectangular field venue for lacrosse. The complex includes six synthetic turf lighted rectangular fields and two lighted Bermuda grass fields.
The new Embrey Mill Park has been designed with families in mind because the complex also includes a playground, a concession stand, a large parking area and restrooms. It is located just off I-95 and next to the new Jeff Rouse Swim and Sport Center. Over 4,500 hotel rooms serve the region and their rates are family-friendly. Stafford is also home to all the nationally known restaurants that families love.
Stafford County is located just 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., in the heart of the nation’s most historic region. Its proximity to the nation’s capital and popular tourism attractions, plus its relative affordability make Stafford a sure bet for lacrosse events. For more information, visit www.tourstaffordva.com.
Arlington, Texas, Knows Lacrosse
Arlington’s Harold Patterson Sports Complex is 135.5 acres of multi-use fields that can configure up to 22 larger lacrosse fields — 18 lighted, and up to 55 total smaller fields with 46 lighted. Dedicated as an official park in 1990, Arlington has welcomed athletes of all ages and skill levels in droves throughout the area and region. In 2012, Harold Patterson was the host field for US Lacrosse’s Under 13 and Under 15 lacrosse festivals. In addition, there are 600-plus available parking spots for tournaments of all sizes. Bring your lacrosse event to Arlington, where we crown champions!