MLL is set to announce a showcase event at Kennesaw State on Tuesday, but that could just be a warmup to what may be coming in the future.
“That’s certainly the way we would like to have it play out,” said Marty Elliott, Kennesaw State’s executive director and general manager of the KSU Sports and Recreation Park, which surrounds the primary stadium southeast of the university’s campus.
MLL commissioner David Gross has said in past reports that he is open about expanding the league, which plays a 14-game schedule from April to August, to eventually reach as many as 16 teams.
Fortune magazine reported in September that MLL wants to have two expansion teams for 2014 with the markets being Texas, Florida or Atlanta.
Florida would seem to be a leading option for one team, as the league entrusted the Palm Beach area with hosting the MLL All-Star Game there last summer. But Gross also told Lacrosse Magazine in June that the next round of expansion would likely be announced this month for the 2014 season, which makes the timing of Tuesday’s announcement all the more intriguing.
KSU Stadium, which has 8,300 seats, is a well-sized venue for MLL based on the attendance numbers of its eight current franchises –— Boston, Charlotte, Chesapeake (Md.), Denver, Hamilton (Canada), New York, Columbus (Ohio) and Rochester (N.Y.). Last season, league attendance averaged 5,608 fans per game, with a high of 9,647 in Boston.
Elliott said nothing would need to do be done to KSU Stadium to get it ready for a potential MLL franchise.
If the league does award a franchise to play in the stadium, it would be the second professional franchise to call it home. For two seasons, the Atlanta Beat of Women’s Professional Soccer played their home games in Kennesaw before the league disbanded in the winter of 2012.
If and when Kennesaw State begins a football program, it would also play at the stadium, but that’s unlikely to come before the fall of 2015. The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia recently deferred approval of an increased athletics fee at KSU, which would have led to the green light for the football team’s launch.
The Atlanta area has been one of the leading areas in the Southeast — outside of North Carolina, which has nationally ranked college teams at Duke and North Carolina — for lacrosse’s growth.
Currently, 81 Georgia High School Association schools offer lacrosse – including 23 of the 26 schools in Cobb and Cherokee counties, and Kennesaw State will field Georgia’s first Division I women’s program this spring inside KSU Stadium.
Mercer will launch a women’s program next year, while NCAA Division II Young Harris will field both men’s and women’s teams in 2013, as well as the NAIA’s Emmanuel College.
There are already a number of other Division III and NAIA schools already playing and Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Georgia State each have club programs.
MLL expansion teams in Atlanta and Florida would also provide the Charlotte Hounds with a geographic rival.
Charlotte, a 2012 expansion franchise along with Ohio, went 5-9 in its first year and had an average attendance of 5,712 for its seven homes games.
Jillian Fay, the Hounds’ communications director, said the team was well received during its first season and said she believed a Southern rival would be great for both the team and the league.
“Nothing beats a regional rivalry in any sport,” she said. “It’s a pretty easy ride between Atlanta and Charlotte, which could make for some fun tailgate and game atmospheres. I would love to see more of that in Major League Lacrosse.”