Hey, Major League Lacrosse, do yourself a favor and get into Florida as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter where in Florida you go, lacrosse maniacs in the Sunshine State will make it worth your while, I promise.
After three test runs in Florida, including the 2012 MLL All-Star Game and two regular season games in 2013, enthusiasm for the sport has been at an all-time high. Whether it is at the club, high school, college, or professional level, lacrosse is becoming a dominant sport across the United States, and exponential growth has especially been seen in Florida.
Expansion was not something that was always on the radar of MLL though. Since the league started play in 2001, four teams have folded due to financial problems, and one team has relocated. In recent years however, MLL has gained significant support as the sport of lacrosse has grown. In 2011, the leagues tenth anniversary, an average of 6,417 fans came out to support the league’s eight teams.
After seeing the interest that Floridians had in the sport, MLL decided to take their league’s main attraction, the All-Star game, to Boca Raton in 2012. In front of almost 8,000 fans, the league’s best players played an up-tempo game that was sure to please everyone in attendance. Along with the game, the league set up an entire weekend that included youth clinics, autograph sessions, and many other events. These events were also used by the league to gauge interest in possibly bringing a team to Florida.
As the 2013 season rolled around, the league found itself scheduling two regular season games in Florida. The league knew that support for an All-Star game was one thing, but it was also important to see how the areas in Florida that they chose (St. Petersburg/Tampa area and Boca Raton) would handle regular season games. That question was all but answered as almost 4,000 fans came to watch lacrosse on two separate weekends.
Expansion into Florida by MLL will not only help the professional players, but it will also encourage school-aged children into picking up a lacrosse stick instead of a football or a baseball bat. While there has been talk about expansion into other cities including Atlanta, Dallas, and into the western part of the United States, there has been no better time than now to place a team in Florida.
At this point, Boca Raton has to be the favorite for an expansion team. After hosting more than 8,000 people throughout the 2012 All-Star weekend and almost 4,000 people during a regular season matchup between the Hamilton Nationals and Rochester Rattlers, eagerness for a team has grown considerably.
If Major League Lacrosse wants to be a positive influence on their growing sport, there’s no doubt that the next expansion team has to be located in Florida.