They’ve seen professional lacrosse before, and fans came. Could the city of Portland, Oregon once again be home to the highest level of professional lacrosse? Its a question many in the northwest have been asking.
Portland got their first taste of professional lacrosse in 2005 when the Lumberjax of the NLL came to town. Attendance wise, the team did not do terribly. In their four seasons they averaged between 7,000 and 8,000 fans for most games, decent for a young NLL franchise. The team enjoyed moderate success, and made it to the Champions Cup in 2008.
The demise of the Lumberjax was less of an issue of fan support and more of a lack of money. Owner Angela Batinovich, like many past NLL owners, did not possess the resources to own a professional sports franchise. The Jax were mainly backed by her father, who’s business took a big hit during the Lumberjax existence. Combine that with a poor US economy and it is a recipe for disaster. The team folded in 2009 after four seasons at the Rose Garden.
Lacrosse in the northwest is growing, which I talked about when I discussed the possibility of the league going to Seattle. The league is obviously interested in moving out west, but its still up in the air whether they’d be interested in both a Seattle and Portland franchise. It is about three hours between the two, but that could still be too close in the eyes of the MLL.
Portland has what I think is the best venue for the MLL, MLS style soccer fields. Â The Jeld-Wen Field currently houses the Portland Timbers of the MLS and the Portland State football team. It holds 20,000 fans, about what the league is looking for. The stadium was recentlyÂ renovated in 2011 and is the perfect location for field lacrosse in Portland.
There are obviously fans interested in lacrosse in Portland, they have the NLL attendances to prove it. They’d be competing with a Timbers team in the summer that is very successful, but that would be their only real competition. Could the MLL succeed in Portland? Most likely, but its nothing set in stone. I expect that Portland will be looked at down the road and possibly could land a team as part of the expansion west.