Lacrosse dominates the northeast USA and all of Canada, and has experienced a recent explosion of popularity in Utah, Colorado and Idaho. Youth leagues and elite travel teams are developed everywhere. High school success in the east gets players into colleges, travel teams and off season play get these westerners in the spotlight.
The more time I spend in Colorado is the more exposure I get to the lacrosse culture and history of the region. Indoor lacrosse is the way of the future here because of its stick skill development and constant pace of play. Denver is the only city to boast two professional lacrosse teams, the MLL Outlaws and NLL Mammoth. Every coach, youth or professional, has terrific insight on lacrosse’s growth.
“There’s college programs out there that compete in MCLA play because the school doesn’t have enough money to fund BOTH men’s and women’s teams. In that sense, Title IX is a barrier on men’s lacrosse. University of Arizona, USC, Texas, and schools in California all have fantastic programs but no support for a women’s program.”
That’s interesting to me. For one, we now learn how well-established lacrosse already is on the western front. Arizona, California, Utah, and Texas all have youth programs while schools start to realize the popularity and success of lacrosse.
“The real key to growing lacrosse is the pull-through effect that comes from professional leagues. Everywhere there’s a pro team, there are clinics, public showings, fundraisers and donations, etc. In places like Texas and Arizona, they’re growing without that extra push.”
Professional leagues and teams take money to run. It doesn’t matter the sport or gender, all need business to thrive. What about Denver attracts such popularity? Is it a consistent theme that could be exposed in other areas?
The answer: Yes. Canadians and oil.
What better of an industry is there to back a growing sport such as lacrosse? Canada is known for its logging and drilling industries. The recent lacrosse explosion in the midwest comes from the influence of relocated/immigrated Canadians following their jobs or the industry to new drilling sites and markets.
And what do all Texans love other than guns, trucks, beef and sweet tea? OIL!
I believe a very slow economic shift will occur in the future with more Canadians moving further south with the industries. However, I’m no economist and this is about lacrosse.
Texas has numerous oil companies, and sources tell me lacrosse popularity is in fact increasing on the range. Arizona is also riding the growth explosion and Texas is realizing the potential the sport has on a collegiate athletics income level.
The Lone Star state could be a major target market for future lacrosse franchises. The NHL just released statements confirming potential franchise-expansion in the south, so why can’t lacrosse do it?
I think Texas is ready. Dallas, Austin and Houston are all metropolitan bubbles looking for new ways to renovate and revamp, grow culturally and create a nightlife (especially Dallas and Houston). San Antonio is full of rich history, as well.
Home to the Cowboys (who actually play in Alexandria) a professional team could ask Jerry Jones to share his monument (I mean stadium) with them. If not, there are plenty of up and coming areas of downtown that could be potential foundations of a home.
There is construction everywhere – new buildings going up, new residential complexes, and restoring historical sites and architecture. That can only mean one thing: people are moving there. The NFL Texans don’t seem to rally much support so maybe this area is looking for a different sport.
Texas party life. Swarms of bats come out daily at sundown and strips of clubs open their doors for business. A lot of young people which caters to a newer way of thinking. Many people in Austin are implants from other areas of the country. With the type of tourism and lifestyle there is in Austin makes for a strong contending location.
If lacrosse picks up attention in Texas, the oil industry will be an easy networking tool for a professional league to utilize.
Though this article focuses on Texas, I think honorable mention goes out to Arizona. The state has established multiple youth leagues/organizations and numerous colleges have well run club programs that could compete varsity.
With that stated, the race is on between Texas and Arizona for where professional lacrosse will settle next.
My bet: MLL franchise there by 2020 (remember, it’s already 2014).