1/24/11 4:15 PM
By Derek McLean
As the 2011 Major League Lacrosse draft got under way on Friday, January 21st Commissioner David Gross stepped up to the podium and announced that beginning in 2012 two new teams would be joining Major League Lacrosse. Commissioner Gross announced the league is adding franchises in Charlotte, North Carolina and Columbus, Ohio.
Although both cities will be new to Major League Lacrosse, the league has a history in both areas. There have been 2 regular season MLL games played in North Carolina, both at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. In 2008 the Philadelphia Barrage played the Rochester Rattlers and in 2010 the Chicago Machine took on the Toronto Nationals. “Carolina is an area we’ve been interested in,” says Gross. “We’ve been looking for the right time to expand there.”
The success of the college programs at Duke University and the University of North Carolina has made the state a hot bed for lacrosse and the city of Charlotte has proven to have a strong passion for professional sports. The city has 2 major professional franchises with the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA and the Carolina Panthers of the NFL. Says Gross, “Carolina has great schools and sports are growing dramatically in there.”
Major League Lacrosse also has a history in the Columbus community. The city hosted the original Summer Showcase game in 2000, the 2002 MLL Championship Game between the Baltimore Bayhawks and the Long Island Lizards at Columbus Crew Stadium, and most recently a regular season game between the Long Island Lizards and the Chicago Machine in the summer of 2010. “Each time we have gone to Columbus, we have been very impressed with how it has gone,” says Gross. “We were waiting for the opportunity to move there.”
Like Charlotte, the city of Columbus is home to an NHL franchise, the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is also home to the Ohio State University, whose lacrosse program has continually grown in the past few years to go along with nationally ranked football and basketball teams who have large, passionate fan bases. “Columbus is a great sports community,” says Gross. “Lacrosse is growing, not just there, but across the entire State.”
With the addition to the Charlotte and Columbus franchises, Commissioner Gross also announced that the league has added 2 regular season games for each team. The current 12-game schedule will become a 14 game schedule beginning in 2012.