With New Play Format, Halo LAX Writes an Innovative Success Story
25 Oct, 2020By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Once upon a time, being called a disruptor wasn’t a compliment. But that was then – before companies like Airbnb and Uber started shaking up the paradigm. Now, being called a disruptor is a sign of innovation, ingenuity and of a company’s ability to move outside the expected structure.
And that’s right where Halo LAX is. A challenger brand into the lacrosse event market, Halo LAX is pushing barriers with two new event formats – both of which are sanctioned by the national governing body.
Halo LAX is a product of Sports Facilities (SF) Companies, the youth and amateur sports industry member company already on the vanguard of venue planning, development and management. And with all those irons in the fire, it’s a fair question: Why become an event owner/rights holder as well? And why now?
According to Justin Roach, National Director – Events and Entertainment for the Sports Facilities Companies, it was a natural progression.
“It goes without saying, there are a lot of challenges coming out of COVID,” says Roach. “There have always been problems relating to the inconsistencies of event quality, particularly in terms of being able to perform the way teams and players expect. We decided that now would be the time to be able to control our own destiny, as it were, and to be able to set a standard of quality which matches that of our facility management services our clients expect.”
The SF Companies announced the inception of Halo LAX at the end of the summer and hosted the first events in early October.
Halo LAX, Roach explains, has two primary event verticals. One is showcase events for high school students seeking admission to Division III institutions. As a result, the inaugural National DIII Showcase was held at Maplezone Sports Institute Sports Village, located in Aston, Pennsylvania, about 15 miles outside of Philadelphia.
That event, which drew 84 players, met with uniformly positive reviews, said Roach. It also allowed players to connect with more than two dozen coaches. The event partnered with ConnectLax, a recruitment platform that allows players to make contact with the colleges that interest them, and to send clips and highlights of their play.
But the National Showcase events are only half of what Halo LAX does. The company’s signature event 6onLAX, a six-on-six format, is a new concept in the sport. With smaller fields and smaller teams, players have more ball-handling opportunities, allowing for better skill development.
“We are spearheading the 6-on-6 concept,” says Roach. “By making the game smaller, we’re able to make the sport bigger. We can reach more players of more age groups and demographics with 6onLAX. We believe there are thousands of would-be players that lacrosse has not reached yet in America. By making the sport more accessible, we believe we can reach those players in a way that akin to futsal and soccer.”
J. Paul Fisher, Senior Manager of Sanctioning and Event Services, is in favor of the format.
“What Halo LAX is doing with 6onLAX is tapping into a way to create fewer barriers to play. A normal team might require 18 to 25 players; this uses six to 12, which means you can create an atmosphere for competition in areas where there isn’t as much lacrosse.”
Additionally, Fischer notes, “It goes hand in hand with our athlete development model, which has the goal of helping kids fine-tune their skills from a young age. This is an untapped demographic they’re reaching.”
The inaugural 6onLAX event, presented in Rochester, New York, at Camp Eastman, attracted 36 teams which, Roach notes, “is a really strong start.”
It’s an event more impressive accomplishment, given the area’s COVID guidelines: “New York isn’t allowing for national events yet. All those teams were from the immediate area and we held the event according to some really tight restrictions. Safety was our first concern.”
But Rochester, an area rich in lacrosse, turned out to be an excellent launchpad, and destination officials were pleased to have been selected to host, according to Libby Craig, Sports Sales Manager for the Rochester NY Sports Commission.
“The Rochester NY Sports Commission understands the value in supporting grassroots events, especially in sports,” she notes, “and we’re honored that Rochester was chosen to be the location for Halo LAX’s inaugural events. Halo LAX is doing some creative things within the lacrosse marketplace and we look forward to helping them expand the reach of their events in our community and continuing to cultivate our partnership.”
Roach says the success of a conference with in-state athletes proves the theory that SFM’s CEO, Jason Clement, put forth earlier in the year when he and Roach did a webinar with Sports ETA: that local tourism would be the first sector to rebound.
US Lacrosse has sanctioned the Halo LAX events – both the showcases and the 6onLAX format. Fischer says Halo LAX impressed the national governing body from the start.
“They were very professional in their approach to running their events. Everything was detailed and dialed in; and as an event operator, that’s half the battle. It was obvious they were going to be a very professional organization to work with.”
Of course, to date, we’ve seen events in Rochester and outside Philadelphia – which begs the question: Why not host the inaugural showcase and 6onLAX events at one of the Sports Facilities venues?
“With the events we are creating, we are not limiting ourselves to venues in the SFM Network,” says Roach. “What was really important for Halo LAX was making sure we were in the strongest lacrosse markets. As we continue to select locations, we’re looking to expand to new and emerging markets. Our ethos to event creation is rooted in collaboration, not competition. We’re not here to put anyone out of business.”
And of course, he notes, that doesn’t rule out properties in the SFM Network; in fact, a look at the schedule reveals a 6onLAX in November at the Panama City Beach Sports Complex.
With a full season in 2021, Halo LAX plans to host more than 40 events and over 10,000 participants in locations across the country, estimated to produce more than $5.6 million in economic impact to those destinations.
And Halo LAX isn’t done yet, either. Roach adds that the organization is rolling out an adult division in a few weeks at Iron Peak in New Jersey – the grand opening of the facility.
“Our vision for 6onLAX is that it transcends a single age group. We see it providing greater opportunities for play for the younger youth level players and extending into adulthood. This will become the type of lacrosse that all ages will play. When you think about it, someone who used to play in high school or at the collegiate level – where else can they play in a tournament these days? There are softball beer leagues but there’s a lack of opportunity for lacrosse. This gives them more options to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle and stay in the sport of lacrosse.
And if that shakes up the industry, it’s even better.
“It’s innovative, it’s disruptive, it’s not traditional. It’s improving the health of the sport as well as keeping people active. It’s providing better access to the sport and letting more people stay involved with it.”
Jason Clement agrees with that – and mentions an even loftier goal.
“We have spent a lot of focus, time and energy developing an extraordinary experience to expand the sport of lacrosse,” said Clement. “6onLAX will be a big part of that initiative and aligns with the international movement of seeing lacrosse in the Olympics. The objective is to provide a fun, fast-paced way for a lot of players to improve their skills and have the opportunity to play at every stage of life.”