Steeped in History, Lacrosse Looks to Make Its Move in the U.S. | Sports Destination Management

Steeped in History, Lacrosse Looks to Make Its Move in the U.S.

Jul 01, 2023 | By: Peter Francesconi

Fun fact:  Lacrosse is considered the oldest organized sport in North America, with its origins going back to the 12th century when it was played by Indigenous peoples.

Today, nearly two million players wield lacrosse sticks on fields across the U.S., according to the 2023 Participation Report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, and while participation in the sport has slipped slightly in recent pandemic years, locations across the country report that activity continues to increase, especially for school teams. If you’re looking to place a lacrosse tournament or event, consider some of these top venues.

Elgin, Illinois

Elgin, IL | Photo Courtesy of Elgin Area CVB
Elgin, IL | Photo Courtesy of Elgin Area CVB

The Elgin, Illinois area has several facilities available for lacrosse tournaments and events, starting with the Elgin Sports Complex, with 10 natural grass fields. The newly renovated Dawson Field at Judson University is an outdoor turf field, which can host events during the summer when the school’s athletic programs are on hiatus. Lifezone 360 in West Dundee is the only indoor lacrosse facility in the Elgin area and offers two full-size turf fields.

Last fall, the area hosted the US Lax Cow Tippers Tournament, which it will host again in October. The Victory Event Series is also coming this summer, with about 150 teams.

The Elgin Area CVB works with event owners and facility operators and can help in organizing hotel room blocks, marketing to the local community and finding volunteers for events if needed. Off the field, the area has a lot to offer athletes and families, including an indoor trampoline park, escape rooms, axe throwing, rock climbing, and American Ninja Warrior themed obstacle courses. There is also golf at award-winning courses in Elgin.

“Lacrosse has become the fastest growing sports tourism driver for the Elgin area, which is a market that has been dominated by soccer and softball for 30 years,” says Ryan Cortez of the Elgin Area CVB. “It’s exciting being one of the key players in growing this sport in the Chicagoland area.”

Irmo/Chapin, South Carolina

Irmo/Chapin, SC | Photo Courtesy of Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission
Irmo/Chapin, SC | Photo Courtesy of Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission

The 40-acre Saluda Shoals Park in Columbia, South Carolina has seven full-size natural grass fields, including two Championship Fields, that support lacrosse tournaments and events for all ages and genders, says Ashley Smith, the market development director for the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission (ICRC).

“Our park atmosphere allows spectators to bring in tents and chairs, and there is natural seating on the berms around our Championship Fields,” Smith says. In recent years, Saluda Shoals has played host to up to 80 teams, in two of ICRC’s largest NXT Lacrosse events, and the commission is looking to recruit more events in upcoming years. Experience Columbia SC Sports supports the ICRC’s efforts by helping with discounts, hotels, marketing, transportation and more.

Off the field of play, the riverfront Saluda Shoals Park offers many amenities for families, including Leo’s Landing, a playground designed to foster inclusion, friendship and understanding among children and adults of all abilities using nature-based play elements. There is also a splash pad, as well as kayak and tube rentals. In addition, there’s Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, one of the nation’s premier natural habitat zoos; Lake Murray; EdVenture Children’s Museum; the South Carolina State Museum and plenty of other diversions.

Ryan Long, the former event director for NXT Lacrosse, has nothing but praise for the job ICRC does with events. “We run over 40 different events around the country,” Long says. “Ashley and his staff are THE BEST that we work with. They go above and beyond what we could ever ask for. Ashley is with us every step of the way. You can tell he is just as invested in the success of the event as we are.”

Lake County, Illinois

Lake County, IL | Photo Courtesy of Visit Lake County
Lake County, IL | Photo Courtesy of Visit Lake County

Just 30 miles north of downtown Chicago, Lake County, Illinois is one of the Midwest’s premier sports and recreational destinations. In terms of lacrosse, the two largest facilities are the Waukegan Sports Park, offering 15 fields, and the Vernon Hills Sports Complex, with 24 fields.

Among the larger events the area hosts is the Lacrosse America Pipe City Tournament at Vernon Hills in July, which brings in more than 300 teams and 100 college recruiters. “Lacrosse has become so popular here,” says Teresa Lewis of Visit Lake County. “Our communities and facilities love seeing groups rebooking each year.”

The CVB helps event owners and tournament directors with all aspects of their events, including arranging hotel and venue site inspections, securing proposals and hotel room blocks, providing free information to participants including visitor map guides and other literature, coordinating venues for entertainment and after-hours programming, and more.

Bordered by Lake Michigan, Lake County is only minutes from southeastern Wisconsin and a quick Metra train ride from downtown Chicago. The area is accessible from major airports (Chicago O’Hare and Milwaukee’s General Mitchell) and by car via I-294.

When athletes are not watching sports or competing, there’s plenty for them to see and do, including shopping at Gurnee Mills, visiting the Volo Museum with its multi-million-dollar automobile collection and Hollywood cars, Lambs Farm and the Country Stores, exploring the more than 30,000 acres of forest preserves that offer hiking, biking and fishing, and, of course, visiting Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.


Maryland | Photo Courtesy of Maryland Sports Commission
Maryland | Photo Courtesy of Maryland Sports Commission

“Lacrosse is an incredibly popular sport in Maryland, in fact it’s the official team sport for the state,” says Graham Whaples of the Maryland Sports Commission. “We have a number of rights holders based here in Maryland, and USA Lacrosse, the national governing body for the sport, is headquartered in Baltimore County.”

Because of the sport’s popularity, he adds, “We have the ability in Maryland to host everything from professional, to collegiate, to youth and amateur events.”

For instance, Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood Field has hosted Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) games as well as the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championships. Unitas Stadium at Towson University was home to the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship in 2022. M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore (home of the Baltimore Ravens) has hosted numerous NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championships over the years.

On the youth and amateur level, Cedar Lane Regional Park in Harford County is a 110-acre multi-sport complex with 13 fields (12 natural and one turf). The turf field alone has seating capacity for more than 900 spectators.

“Our big focus when working with partners or potential rights holders is on providing the best possible experience for their guests,” Whaples notes. “With our TEAM Maryland partners, and the relationships they’ve built within their communities, we can really narrow in on the experiential aspect of an event and create something that’s truly unique.”

Whaples says the Sports Commission is proud to be a partner of Next Collegiate League, which is committed to removing barriers to entry that exist in the sport by providing equipment like helmets, sticks and gloves to teams and players.

Round Rock, Texas

Round Rock, TX | Photo Courtesy of Round Rock CVB
Round Rock, TX | Photo Courtesy of Round Rock CVB

The Round Rock Multipurpose Complex is a premier venue for lacrosse events, accommodating athletes of all skill levels and ages, with customizable fields to suit the requirements of any event. The complex’s 10 fields (five artificial turf, five natural grass) offer a variety of options for tournaments, and the two premium championship fields have shaded stadium bleacher seating.

“In addition to the exceptional playing facilities at the Multipurpose Complex, we also offer top-notch amenities for players and spectators,” says Nancy Yawn, the director of the Round Rock CVB. “The main clubhouse features two multi-purpose meeting rooms and a training room. We have four sets of bathrooms on site, an in-house concessions operation and space and utilities for outside food vendors.”

Larger events in recent years have included the Texas Lax Festival Bitter Lacrosse, which brought in 50 teams and about 2,000 participants and guests; the USA Lacrosse WCLA Championship, with 31 teams and 2325 attendees; and the 2023 MCLA National Championships, with 32 teams and about 2,800 participants and attendees. Coming up are the Texas Lax Festival and the Team 91 Lacrosse Club World Championships.

Yawn says event planners get all kinds of special perks when they book in Round Rock, including PR and media assistance, transportation assistance, lodging services, itinerary development and event planning assistance. Off the field, Round Rock offers many enticing attractions. Shopping enthusiasts can explore the Round Rock Premium Outlets or local boutiques. For family fun, there’s America’s Largest Indoor Water Park at Kalahari Resorts, or a baseball game at the Dell Diamond. Oh, and Round Rock Donuts is renowned for its “Texas-sized” donuts.

Snohomish County, Washington

Snohomish County, WA Photo Courtesy of of Snohomish County Sports Commission
Snohomish County, WA Photo Courtesy of of Snohomish County Sports Commission

“Lacrosse has been a growing sport in Snohomish County since 2005,” says Tammy Dunn, executive director of the Snohomish County Sports Commission. “We have multiple high school boys’ and girls’ teams which are members of the Washington High School Boys & Girls Lacrosse Association. Both the Harvey Cup and Cascade Cup are popular lacrosse tournaments that fill up months in advance.”

The Harvey Cup Tournament, held at the beginning of June, attracts about 50 teams from across the western U.S. and Canada for three days to its new venue at Kasch Park in Everett. The Cascade Cup is a girls’ tourney held each July and brings in 30 teams from California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Stanwood Lacrosse Club hosts the Stanwood Invitational in May, with teams coming in from recreational leagues in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia to play at Heritage Park (three multi-sport grass fields), Stanwood Middle School (one natural grass full-size lacrosse field and two K2/34 modified fields), and Stanwood High School (one full-size turf lacrosse field and two K2/34 modified fields).

Other facilities available for lacrosse in the area include Harvey Fields, which is owned and operated by Snohomish Airport, consists of six grass fields and is home to the Snohomish Lacrosse Girls and Boys Clubs.

The Meadowdale Athletic Complex, owned by Lynnwood Parks & Recreation, has two lighted turf fields, restrooms, concessions and a playground area. The three lighted turf fields at Kasch Park, owned by Everett Parks & Rec, offer restrooms, food trucks, a playground and parking for 200 cars. The lighted fields at Lake Tye Park in Monroe are being renovated from grass to turf and will include a regulation lacrosse field and a modified lacrosse field.

South Bend/Mishawaka, Indiana

South Bend/Mishawaka IN Photos Courtesy of Visit South Bend Mishawaka
South Bend/Mishawaka IN Photos Courtesy of Visit South Bend Mishawaka

Nick Kleva, the director of sports development for Visit South Bend Mishawaka, is excited about the future. “Later this year, we’re breaking ground on a multi-sports complex that will feature two full-size turf fields that will be able to host lacrosse tournaments, among other sports,” he says. “With this coming in 2024 and with the expansion of the Indiana Invaders Sports Complex and Newton Park, the future of lacrosse in South Bend looks very promising.”

The Invaders Sports Complex currently consists of nine customizable fields, high quality natural grass, 1,000-plus parking spots, spectator bleachers and stadium field. Newton Park offers five lighted fields, natural grass, 470 parking spots, concessions, spectator bleachers and a press box.

The area has hosted US Lax events, including the annual Rip the Duck and Rip the Wave tournaments, for many years. Each event brings about 90 teams, with over 6,500 players and spectators. Lacrosse America has also run events in the area, with tourneys that have brought in about 4,500 attendees.

“The Rip the Duck Lacrosse tournament has been a staple on the calendar for 10-plus years,” Kleva says. “All of our partners circle the tournament because they truly take over the town in restaurants, hotels and attractions.”

The CVB helps out in a variety of ways, from housing assistance to social media posts and press releases, to providing destination information for visiting teams. “We also have a grant opportunity that the organizer can apply for to cover tournament expenses,” Kleva notes.

Apparently, there’s no shortage of new opportunities for the ancient sport of lacrosse. SDM

About the Author