At 11 a.m. EST on Thursday, November 16, outgoing Major League Lacrosse commissioner David Gross took the podium at a press conference and announced the relocation of the Rochester Rattlers franchise to Dallas, Texas. The announcement took place at The Star in Frisco, the practice facility of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and host of the 2017 MLL championship. The 12,000 seat practice facility will be the only indoor venue in the league. Commissioner Gross stated the league has had their eyes on Dallas/Houston area for several years. The commissioner cited the need to move the Rattlers to an ever-growing hotbed of high school and collegiate lacrosse and to strengthen support for the team.
The Rattlers find themselves moving out of Rochester for the second time after being one of the founding teams of the league in 2001. The first time the team moved to Hamilton as the Nationals in 2009. In 2011, the Chicago Machine moved to Rochester to revive the franchise. Winning seasons and playoff appearances are common with the Rattlers and part of the culture, but championships and attendance have proved problematic. The Rattlers ranked seventh out of nine teams in attendance at just under 2200 fans per home game, less than half of the rival New York Lizards.
Underneath the new Rattlers logo of dark blue, silver and orange, president Bill Goren said the goal is to make the Rattlers “the diamond of the league.” It appears that the team is taking a page from the Denver Outlaws and setting up shop in an NFL supported venue with a colour scheme similar to that organization. The Outlaws have been one of the most successful franchises in league history in terms of championships and attendance and often cited as a model the league wants repeated. All the pieces are in place for Dallas to unseat Denver, except for head coach Tim Soudan. The former Rattler turned coach, and the man many players credit as creating the culture that drives the team to such incredible performances, announced he would not be accompanying the team to Dallas. Gross and Goren announced Billy Warder, longtime assistant coach for the Rattlers, has been named the new head coach.
Despite the first class facilities and support of the community, Warder stressed keeping the core of the team together, keeping the culture intact, and taking care of unfinished business (i.e. winning a championship) was top priority. When looking at the eight players the Rattlers still have available in player movement, his focus on that is justified. Among the top two names are John Galloway and Joel White, the core of the team and each one coming with a first round compensation pick. Other notable names on defense are Mike “Sharknado” Manley and John Lade. On offense, the list includes Ned Crotty, Jordan MacIntosh, John Ranagan and Jeremy Boltus. Kyle Denhoff already signed with Boston prior to the move. If Goren and Warder can keep most of this group together and make good selections in the upcoming supplemental draft, this move may be the best thing to happen to the Rattlers as they move from regular appearances in the semifinals and become MLL champions for the first time…again.