By Zachary Baru
We have the venues, we have the fans, we're just missing the league. That league is the National Lacrosse League, and it is possibly growing better than it ever has before in its 37-year history.
Beginning in 1987, and currently with 15 franchises, the NLL is capitalizing off growing youth lacrosse participation rates throughout the nation. No longer is lacrosse just a northeast or mid-Atlantic sport, the game is growing throughout the country with an increasing amount of high school and college programs in non-traditional markets. Children and teenagers in newer markets like Florida and California, along with basically every region in between, are now playing lacrosse in both the youth-level and high school level. The NCAA is seeing increased lacrosse coverage across television networks, most notably ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and especially ESPN+. The latter is now offering a great deal of Division I lacrosse games each week during the season, and ESPN2 and ESPNU have routinely televised the NLL on Friday and Saturday nights. The NLL now has a deal with ESPN, as every NLL match is streamed live on ESPN+, with some being televised on the national networks. With a growing lacrosse culture throughout the country, where does this leave a traditional lacrosse market such as Boston?
Boston has an outstanding opportunity as a new market for the league. If you want to begin with the venue, the region has at least three very good options. The first and obvious choice is the 17,850-seat TD Garden, which would be perfect for television, accommodating premium seating and media, and also great for larger games. However, TD Garden would likely be too large for the majority of the games, leaving fans in the arena and on TV possibly seeing an unenergetic crowd.A second choice, and perhaps the best choice, would be Agannis Arena. On the campus of Boston University, this 6,150-seat arena is much more intimate than TD Garden, and would ensure a better atmosphere for the games. It would quite possibly encourage multiple sellout crowds, and potentially raise the demand for tickets. Being on a college campus, not only would the crowds possibly be livelier, but the team could most likely attract a key demographic for lacrosse fans. Many lacrosse fans are younger, and college-aged, making Agannis Arena an interesting choice for both the in-arena experience and the type of fans the team would reach.
Lastly, the 6,496-seat Tsongas Center in Lowell would be more outside of the city, something that could hurt the team, but the size and arena experience would be beneficial for the potential club's success. The intimacy of the arena would greatly encourage sellout crowds, and with many lacrosse fans living in the area, including New Hampshire, the Tsongas Center wouldn't be a bad choice at all for the league. Multiple teams in the league, including Las Vegas, Georgia and Rochester, have smaller arenas. This can really boost the experience for the fans, and prevent them from seeing potentially a closed 300-level at TD Garden.
All of the ingredients are there: good venues, a passionate fan base, and a growing demand for lacrosse across the media landscape. A return for the NLL would be the first since 2011, when the Boston Blazers suspended their franchise and never returned. New England once again saw professional indoor lacrosse in 2015 when Philadelphia relocated to the Mohegan Sun Arena and become the New England Black Wolves. However that franchise moved to Albany in 2021, leaving a viable market like New England without a team. Only time will tell what future pro indoor lacrosse has in Boston, but for an investor with the right capital, this investment could very well bring a positive return financially in an area that is just as ready for lacrosse as any other market throughout the nation.Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.