Sports

National Lacrosse League still has eye on return to Lower Mainland

It wasn’t a sellout like the 2011 game, but more than 4,100 fans were on hand at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night to watch an exhibition game between the National Lacrosse League’s Calgary Roughnecks and Colorado Mammoth.  - Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times
It wasn’t a sellout like the 2011 game, but more than 4,100 fans were on hand at the Langley Events Centre on Saturday night to watch an exhibition game between the National Lacrosse League’s Calgary Roughnecks and Colorado Mammoth.
— image credit: Miranda Gathercole/Langley Times

Attendance may have been down, but the National Lacrosse League still has their sights set on returning professional lacrosse to the Lower Mainland.

“I don’t know anywhere else in North America where we could have had two out-of-market teams participate in a pre-season game and even draw 4,000 fans,” said league commissioner George Daniel.

He was referring to the 4,112 fans who came out to the Langley Events Centre on Dec. 8 to watch the Calgary Roughnecks defeat the Colorado Mammoth 20-11 in pre-season action.

The previous year saw a full house (5,200) for the Toronto Rock and the Washington Stealth.

The Stealth, who play just across the border in Everett, Wash., draw a lot of fans from the Lower Mainland.

The NLL has long expressed a desire to return to the Lower Mainland, which has been absent from the league with the folding of the Vancouver Ravens in 2004.

There are three Canadian teams — Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto — among the nine franchises.

“We are on record as saying British Columbia is a market we definitely want to be in,” Daniel said.

“It is a market that ranks at or near the top of our expansion plans.

“It is a market that is critical for us in terms of television and sponsorship in Canada.”

The league’s average attendance is about 9,500 fans per game, which is significantly greater than the LEC’s capacity.

“We are OK with smaller-sized buildings (but) the Langley building is significantly smaller,” he said.

The Stealth play in the 9,000-seat Comcast Arena but in 2012 averaged just under 3,900 fans per game, the lowest in the NLL.

“We have an open mind about the building. If someone can demonstrate there is a business model that can work for them, we would listen,” Daniel said.

“Obviously it is a market we want to be in and we will explore and exhaust all possibilities in order to get there.”

As for referring to Langley for a third installment of a pre-season game, Daniel said that is something the league would definitely like.

“It gives us a real good opportunity to bring the NLL back to British Columbia, at least on an annual basis,” he said.

“And (it would) keep us in the forefront of everybody’s mind as we continue to work towards bringing an expansion franchise back to the market.”

The decision to host a third game in Langley would be initiated by the LEC.

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