Lacrosse fans in the Lower Mainland have now seen both ends of the spectrum.
For the past two years, the Langley Events Centre has hosted pre-season National Lacrosse League action, selling out the venue one time and drawing more than 4,000 fans the next.
And on Saturday, it was another capacity crowd of 5,200 fans who watched the NLL Champion’s Cup clash between the Rochester Knighthawks and the Washington Stealth. The Knighthawks won their second straight title, defeating the ‘home team’ Stealth 11-10 in a thrilling final.
The Stealth were forced from their usual venue across the border in Everett as the Comcast Arena was booked.
“I think generally speaking, what this means is we have shown three times that we are definitely a viable (option) for the NLL,” said Jared Harman, the Langley Event Centre’s director of business development.
He added that all three times neither team has had a specific Langley or local connection — besides players from the Lower Mainland — but that has not deterred lacrosse fans from coming out to watch.
“I would have to expect if there was a B.C. team or Langley team … people would be that much more excited or get that much more behind it.”
NLL commissioner George Daniel has long said the league would love to return to the Lower Mainland. The Vancouver Ravens played in the league from 2002 to 2004.
“(Saturday) was a packed house,” he said.
“You can’t really ask for anything more than that. I think everyone that was in the building really felt the electricity and the enthusiasm.”
“It was a great event.”
Daniel said the league knows the popularity of the sport in the Lower Mainland.
“It continues to show that there is a real core support of fans wanting to attend NLL games in British Columbia,” he said.
“I think we all know that and it continues to bolster and support what we already knew.
“It allows us the momentum to continue the discussions we have had about trying to secure the right ownership group to bring the NLL back to British Columbia on a more permanent basis.”
For their part, Harman and the LEC would welcome bringing professional lacrosse to town, providing everything fit in place.
“We would love to have that discussion,” he said. “It would obviously be a great opportunity for the facility and the community.
“(But) it would have to be the right situation and right circumstance.”
Harman did say they are looking into bringing an NLL pre-season game — as well as coaching clinic — back to the LEC.
Hosting a Stealth regular season would be very “unlikely” said team president David Takata, citing the team’s contract to host their nine regular season games all at Comcast Arena.
Takata was impressed with the LEC and their production of the Champion’s Cup, especially considering the short time they had to plan the game and festivities.
“To sell out any venue in a week’s time is a success,” he said.
“They are very organized and they have a commitment from the top down at the Township of Langley.
“I think just that level of commitment helped immensely.”
One challenge Saturday’s event did face was parking.
Some people were tweeting that nearly residents were offering parking for $10. The LEC has about 1,500 free parking spaces, but getting into the lot was proving problematic.
Harman said that there were still some open spots in the east parking lot shortly before the game began at 4 p.m.
“I think it is an education process,” he said about patrons not knowing there are three separate entrances to the facility.
“Obviously with this game in particular, there were probably a lot of fans who weren’t from Langley and they might only be aware of accessing the LEC from off 200 Street.”
The facility can also be accessed off 80 Avenue and 202A Street.
“I think it is a job of us better communicating to the people who are attending — and it is the same for any of our events — teaching those people how to get in and out of the facility and I think those things will alleviate those challenges,” Harman said.
There was also a firefighters’ banquet in the LEC banquet centre, as well as the usual activities at the Langley Gymnastics Foundation, Willoughby Community Park and the Willoughby Community Centre.